On Halloween, you expect strangers to show up at your door and ask for something from you. What you don’t expect is to find a stranger inside your home. But in For the Sake of Vicious, that’s exactly the horror story that Romina (Lora Burke), a single mother and nurse, encounters when she returns home exhausted after a long shift.
This full-throttle horror-thriller written and directed by Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen begins when Romina finds a maniac holding another man hostage in her home. Is this some sort of practical joke? Unfortunately for her — and for all involved — it’s no prank; this home-invasion lives up to its “vicious” moniker with unrelenting brutality.
The first half of the film is a brooding battle of accusations and assaults, reveals and reversals. We learn that Chris (Nick Smyth), the apparent maniac, has a young daughter who was brutally sexually assaulted. He is understandably desperate to find the person responsible and hold someone — anyone — accountable, thus his hostage Alan (Colin Paradine), who’s Romina’s landlord. Like our protagonist, it’s hard to be sure who to trust.
In early scenes unfolding in Romina’s kitchen, Alex Tong’s cinematography creates a stark and stripped-down atmosphere, while music composed by FOXGRNDR and Gabriel Carrer adds a percussive beat, letting the dialogue drive. Some of the conversations are a bit heavy-handed on the exposition, but there are enough dagger-shooting glances between characters and threats of weapons being used to keep us hanging on every word.
But soon enough, the viciousness can no longer be contained — and once the bloodshed begins, it’s hard to halt. Things transform into complete and utter chaos in later parts of the film, which becomes a near-ceaseless series of screams and sobs. The story dials up the stomach-churning intensity as it seemingly seeks to be Canada’s response to The Purge franchise: violence begins to knock at the door of every house in the neighborhood when hoards of criminals attack without much explanation, unleashing their attacks with glee.
Costumes might be expected, given that it is Halloween, but things start to get slightly too carnivalesque and nonsensical as masked men arrive with little reason given. Romina and her unwanted guests are forced to fight back, becoming equally complicit in the night’s bloodletting. The plot twists and shocks create a horrifying spectacle. Here, though, is also where the narrative’s coherence unravels. The story is focused around the question of how far people are willing to go to protect themselves, but it can feel like we are watching two separate movies: the first half being a film about a tense battle of wills, and the second a high-decibel screaming match.
It’s enthralling to see how far Romina’s capacity for violence extends, and directors Carrer and Eveneshen certainly accomplish a lot given limited resources — the film was shot in only fifteen days and allows an astonishing amount to unfold in mostly one location. In addition, the practical effects and actor-performed stunts warrant some recognition. But as the story goes on it can be hard to connect with the characters, and we see them as less human and more like monsters and cartoonish criminals.
For the Sake of Vicious holds nothing back in its ferocity but becomes too much of a grab-bag of Halloween antics, and despite having a large helping of havoc, doesn’t provide anything that truly satisfies.