If I ever write a column on huge disparities between the quality of a film and the quality of its trailer, The Violent Kind is going to be right up there. This isn’t to say it’s an excellent film or anything, but that trailer up there had me expecting the same sort of lame, no-surprises, bargain-budget horror flick that has populated the straight-to-video scene for far too long. I think it has to do with that terrible voice-over, but whatever the case, whoever cut that trailer should be ashamed.

Now, you might be wondering, if I watched the trailer and thought the movie looked crappy, why did I even bother with it at all? The answer can be summed up with two words – “Tiffany Shepis.” For those who don’t know, Shepis is the current reigning queen of the indie Scream Queens. While not all of her movies are what you would call “good” (in fact, a lot of them are really, really bad), she still usually manages to make them worth watching with her fun, energetic performances. So I’m usually up for checking out any movie she’s featured in, a strategy that has yielded mixed results over the years, to say the least.

The Violent Kind involves a group of young punks from a motorcycle gang (although, of course, one of them is the typical “obvious nice guy who is only in a gang because of life circumstances he couldn’t help”), who one night head out to an isolated house in the woods for a party. After everyone else leaves, our main characters have the house to themselves, at least until one of their ex-girlfriends (played by Shepis), who only moments ago took off, returns covered in blood and crying for help. They bring her inside (where she promptly passes out) and proceed to go looking for the car and the guy she left with. They find both, though the man is dead and also covered in blood. There’s no damage to the car, however, which begs the question – what the hell happened?

At this point, I was pretty intrigued by the mystery of it all, even if I worried it might be heading in a fairly predictable direction. But it isn’t long before the movie goes absolutely ape-shit. Now, this is a tough film to talk about without spoiling too many of its surprises (I guess if the trailer gets any sort of excuse, it’s that), so I’d say stop reading right now if you’ve been considering seeing it and don’t want anything ruined. If that’s the case, I’ll just quickly say it earns a mildly enthusiastic recommendation from me, before moving on to why.

Alright, now let’s get into it. One of the three guys, while checking on the still unconscious and gore-covered Shepis, starts feeling her up, at which point she wakes up and at first seems into it, but then suddenly goes crazy and bites the guy on the neck. “OK,” I thought, “I guess it’s a zombie movie.” Two other characters, looking for help from a nearby hermit, find him dead in a shack covered with strange symbols written in blood. “OK,” I thought, “I guess it’s an occult movie.” Soon, all the characters are terrorized by a pack of young thugs. “OK,” I thought, “I guess it’s a home invasion movie.” Oh, but the thugs all speak and dress like they’re from the ‘50s, and in fact match pictures of missing people from that era that we saw earlier. “OK,” I thought, “I guess it’s a ghost or supernatural revenge movie.” And I also forgot to mention that weird lights keep appearing in the sky and around our characters, sometimes even shooting into their eyes and knocking them out. “OK,” I thought, “I guess it’s an alien….eh, forget it, what the fuck is going on here??”

I can see why this “everything and the kitchen-sink” approach might put off some viewers, and admittedly I’ve seen other low-budget horror movies attempt the same sort of genre-mixing with decidedly disastrous results. But the thing about this kind of approach is it almost gets you interested by default, as you really want to stick it out and see if all these elements actually somehow come together in the end. If the filmmakers can pull that off and do it well, then it has a hope of being a decent movie. I’m happy to say that’s more-or-less the case with this one. Everything IS eventually revealed, and although I was a little under-whelmed by the film’s climax (which really seems to peter out after such an intense build-up), there’s a lot of really good stuff in the individual moments leading up to it. For instance, I really liked the rockabilly home invaders, who get THIS close to edge of obnoxious over-acting without quite crossing it – they’re actually a lot of fun, and probably the best thing about the movie. Oh, and yes, Shepis has quite a bit of screen-time here, and she is especially awesome once her character goes over to the dark side. But, hey, that’s just an unabashed Shepis fanboy talking.

Sons of Anarchy meets The Evil Dead meets The Strangers might be the easiest way to describe this one, but I think what I liked about it was how hard it fights against being able to be described. You just watch it unfold, not quite sure where it is all going and what the hell you just saw even meant. It’s certainly not one of the best horror movies I have seen in recent years, but I admire its quest for originality, and that alone makes it a fairly strong entry for this sort of lower-profile, straight-to-video fare. Give it a look if you’re into that sort of thing, but it goes without saying that if horror isn’t your bag, you need not even waste your time with this one.

This review was originally posted at Trevor Likes Movies on July 7th, 2011.

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