Vicious Fun

The Deputy Assistant Editor of the reviews section of film magazine Vicious Fanatics, Joel thinks he knows horror but his ability to determine how a scene will end from the editing choices the director used to open the shot are of little real world value, short on friends and hopelessly pining for his roommate Sarah who is either oblivious or profoundly disinterested.

His sense of the dramatic prompting him to the counterintuitive path when Sarah returns from a date, rather than confessing his feelings Joel decides instead to follow her mysterious man, ending the night unconscious with no helpful insight, a lighter wallet and a monster hangover when he eventually wakes in a back room of the now closed but not empty Chinese restaurant.

Stumbling on an after-hours support group fortunately expecting a new arrival, Joel improvises and plays along, not wishing to embarrass himself any further after his earlier spectacular failure, but as the others speak, aggressive giant Michael, creepy accountant Fritz, watchful and caustic Carrie, defiant Hideo and host Zachary, their confessions turn into increasingly prideful boasts and Joel realises he has walked through a very wrong door.

Set in Minnesota in 1983, director Cody Calahan has drenched his game of Vicious Fun in every shade of neon, capturing that decade without pushing so hard it overwhelms the film, Evan Marsh’s Joel sporting a Sean Astin haircut and the dress sense of Marty McFly, his apartment adorned with recreations of classic film posters renamed to presumably avoid copyright, the budget less than generous but every cherished dollar on screen in practical effects.

The members of the exclusive club representing horror movie archetypes, Robert Maillet channels rage as Michael, fond of campsite massacres, Julian Richings brings clownish joy to Fritz’s meticulous planning, Sean Baek gives Hideo’s appetite’s a precision edge, David Koechner’s by-the-book Zachary is former black ops and Ari Millen’s slimy, narcissistic Bob makes up for his late arrival by bringing his best Patrick Bateman, while Amber Goldfarb’s Carrie is the wild card.

Working as both a comedy horror and an affectionate pastiche in the same way as The Editor dissected giallo, the occasionally flagging momentum aside Vicious Fun offers exactly what the name suggests, Calahan and James Villeneuve’s smart and inventive script giving each of the characters a different style and approach to their work while shifting the setting at regular intervals, though with a superfluous epilogue offering nothing other than an unexplained explosion for the trailer they perhaps need to understand less is sometimes more.

Vicious Fun is streaming as part of the FrightFest strand at Glasgow Film Festival at Home and will be available from Saturday 5th to Tuesday 9th March



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