There is a classic debate that has raged about media for as long as less than savory content has been around, do violent pieces of media cause violence? Discussed to death, fearful parents and concerned bystanders have always been fearful that seeing violence inspires violence in the youth. From videogames to films there are media all around that are a danger to children and people have taken it upon themselves to battle against this filth. Random Acts of Violence shows in a fictional fashion what one of these depraved people corrupted by violence could be capable of, but what is it isn’t as simple as that?
After a long successful run of comics loosely based around a serial killer that existed when he was young the author, Todd, is on the final issue but doesn’t know how to end it. Looking for inspiration he goes on a road trip with his girlfriend, his publisher, and his assistant. While on his trip he ends up in the town of McBain where the serial killer operated and finds out that three youth have recently been murdered. After seeing the bodies bound in a way that is eerily similar to Todd’s comic, it begins to become clear that the killer is using it for inspiration.
When the title of a film is Random Acts of Violence it would make sense to wonder how violent the movie is going to be and to its credit, it doesn’t get too gruesome. What was surprising is that the film takes the gore and violence very seriously. In a movie like Friday the 13th the violence is handled with a sense of amusement because watching young adults die in unique and interesting ways is the bread and butter of the series. Instead deaths in this film are handled with a bluntness that lets the audience know that these are serious losses of life with real consequences.
What comes off a bit less clear and more muddled is the film’s message on violent media. During a radio station interview, the host confronts Todd about glorifying the actions of the killer and not considering the victim’s who died by his hand. Combined with Todd’s girlfriend doing a book about the serial killer’s victims to give them a better chance to voice their experiences for once it becomes quite clear what the message of the film is. Later though, without spoilers, Random Acts of Violence questions its own theme for a twist in a truly have your cake and eat it too moment.
While a movie called Random Acts of Violence could have leaned into a bloodbath of gratuitous violence, it takes a route of subtly and mystery with a bit of violence thrown in. The story will have you guessing as it is slowly pieced together and the visuals and locations bring the small-town location to life. The film turns into a bit of a mess at the end, but the experience getting there is interesting enough to keep the audience engaged.
7 out of 10