For the Sake of Vicious doesn’t reinvent anything, but is a lean, nasty thriller that doubles as a remarkable calling card for the directing duo.
Writer-directors Gabriel Carrer and Reese Evensehen are no strangers to the DIY Canadian horror scene, each having delivered a number of such films over the past decade, but neither has found a breakthrough project that could introduce them to a wider audience. That could all change with their latest collaboration, For the Sake of Vicious, a lean, nasty little thriller that plays like the lovechild of Death and the Maiden and The Strangers. A thirty-something father has taken hostage the man he believes brutally raped his young daughter, dragging his unconscious body to the home of a seemingly unrelated local nurse. He wants her to keep the man alive long enough for him to admit his transgressions, but the hostage in question is a pillar of the community, an individual of wealth and power, and so soon his goons have descended upon the house. But there is more going on here than meets the eye, as all three must band together if they intend on making it through the night. To reveal any more of the narrative would be to rob audiences of the film’s surprises, of which there are plenty for unsuspecting viewers.
At only 80 minutes, Carrer and Evensehen waste no time in throwing audiences into the middle of the action, establishing the stakes, and then letting the events play out with brutal efficiency. While using something as horrific as the sexual assault of a child as setup is fairly morally dubious and undeniably manipulative, it does sometimes work to ground the otherwise wild actions of the characters. But those considerations are pretty quickly tossed out the window once the brutal back-half kicks in, with the merciless attack scenes staged and shot with surprising cleverness. Taking a page from, of all films, The Bourne Ultimatum, Carrer and Evensehen stage their carnage in increasingly cramped quarters, with assailants using any and every item at their disposal as a weapon, from toilet toppers to shower rods. It’s a visual approach that plays to the strength of the filmmakers, who favor close-ups for the majority of the feature (sometimes frustratingly so). Yet the pay-off is more than worth it, and allows scenes featuring gorgeous wide shots — such as a trio of white-helmet-clad psychopaths speeding down a street in unison on their sheening crotch-rockets — room to breathe, lending shivers of excitement to the dread-heavy material. For the Sake of Vicious doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel when it comes to the home invasion thriller, but it does enough to leave audience members satisfied. With a clever title and some truly impressive practical effects, a company like Netflix would be stupid not to pick up this ruthless little genre effort, allowing Carrer and Evensehen to finally receive the attention they deserve. At worst, it’s a remarkable calling card for the duo.
Originally published as part of Fantasia Fest 2020 — Dispatch 6.