VOD film review: Vicious Fun
Ivan Radford | On 29, Jun 2021
Director: Cody Calahan
Cast: Evan Walsh, Alexa Rose Steele, Ari Millen
Where to watch Vicious Fun online in the UK: Shudder UK
“What is this, some kind of support group for serial killers?” That’s Joel (Evan Walsh) summing up the inspired premise of Vicious Fun in one eminently quotable line.
The film, directed by Cody Calahan (The Oak Room), follows the young film critic, whose love for horror is only surpassed by his crush on his flatmate Sarah (Alexa Rose Steele). Following her on a date to expose her new boyfriend, Bob (a wonderfully sleazy Ari Millen), as married, he winds up in an unexpected man-to-man chat with the guy – and, after one drink leads to another, ends up stumbling into an Alcoholics Anonymous-style meeting for serial killers.
It’s a brilliant starting point for a self-aware slice of horror-comedy, and Calahan’s script (co-written with James Villeneuve) finds its strengths in the way it easily rounds up the stereotypical villains of the genre: there’s the one who dresses up as a clown, the one with a Hannibal-like appetite, the one who plays with knives, and the one who wears a mask while running after college students (but moves so slowly that one or two always get away).
Asking “How do you maintain your lifestyle and keep your urges under control?” and other such probing questions, the film works as both a commentary and deconstruction of genre tropes and as a witty set-up for frights and jokes in its own right. One of the best running jokes is rooted in Joel’s arrogance, as he blithely believes that he has the best idea for a movie serial killer ever, only for the others to immediately carve its plausibility to shreds.
The twisting, turning script finds several surprises through its long, dark night of self-help, balancing cliched dumb cops – who don’t see why the killers would have anything against them – and gory deaths with a sharp skewering of outdated genre sensibilities. It’s all served up with heaps of neon and synth music, while Walsh makes Joel just likeable enough that you root for him through every moment of nostalgic peril that suggests he might not be as superior to cinema as he thinks. Vicious fun? This darkly entertaining ride does exactly what it says on the tin.
Vicious Fun is available to stream online on Shudder UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, or £49.99 yearly membership.
This review was originally published during Grimmfest May Madness 2021.