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The Violent Kind (2010)
Directors: the Butcher brothers

review by Paul Higson

Coming at us with a retro exploitation title and promising bikers and the supernatural, The Violent Kind, directed by the Butcher brothers, boded well, even if this cross-genre concoction had in the past resulted in embarrassments like Michael Levesque's Werewolves On Wheels (1971), and the incredibly low-rent Bikers vs. The Undead (1987). It is 2011 after all, not 1971 with someone in a Don Post mask on a Triumph, or 1987 and some shoddy fan video free for all. One's hopes were unfortunately raised by the most recent comparable title, the Larry Bishop's hugely entertaining biker romp Hell Ride (2010), which prickled of Tarantino (who executive produced) but generally kept chaotic order.

The Violent Kind is of less certain bearing though. Not the complete bike smash but neither is it the chrome plated dream machine. Instead, the Butcher brothers' film serves more as a calling card as Eli Roth's Cabin Fever, and Ty West's The Roost did before it... though mark thee by those films a calling card doesn't necessarily guarantee a future quality service. I now expect nothing from Roth and worry that West will break free of the house of homage. Like Roth's and West's debut features, The Violent Kind is a film of occasional moments of promise and inspiration lost in a clunking wrong-headedness on which the majority of the film relies.

One suspects that the Butcher brothers have their eye more on attracting Tarantino's attention than the wider audience. Well, if that is the case, he can keep them. The film moves out of the blocks quickly as the drop dead gorgeous Shade (Taylor Cole) punches biker hunk Q (Bret Roberts) in the face at the moment she reaches orgasm. Outside wait Cody (Cory Knauf) and Elroy (Nick Tagas) posing against the front of a vehicle like some publicity shot from The Boys Next Door. An aggrieved drug dealer, who has been sold bad shit by Q, rolls up as Q leaves the building only to be pistol-whipped and given a severe kicking to a lame punk track, while Cody and Elroy lay into the accompanying henchman.

The Butcher brothers mean to pass these beautiful people off as members of the Oakland California Nor-Cal division of the Hell's Angels. They talk about past viciousness and living the rock 'n' roll lifestyle but this is some geek boy's wet dream version of biker life, skinny boys trouncing guys twice their size, while a model beauty awaits them in her knickers in the kitchen. Richie Cunningham, Ralph Malph and Potsie could trounce these three. They don't impress.

The girl in the kitchen is having a post-coital read of a book on astrology, as you do, and is ever so concerned about her cousin's minor cuts and bruises when he comes in to borrow her toolkit. Jarring is not the word. The soundtrack jumps from punk, to hard rock, to blues and rock 'n' roll to try and cater to as many ears as possible. This feels like a con, not a concept. The trio and their fake tattoos drive to Cody's mother's 50th birthday party at a remote house, for whooping, and drinking and birthday strippers, girl on girl, even for mum.

The party winds down and only a handful of people remain. It's the old family place and Q and Shade are not moving till morning while Megan (Christine Prousalis) is stranded there when her sister Michelle (Tiffany Shepis) and her new man Dave (Terry Wayne) duck out without her. Michelle was Cody's old flame and he is still brittle on the subject but the cute Megan gives it away that she was the fan and the one who wrote to him in her sister's name while he was incarcerated seeing him through the worst of prison. He would offer her a lift back into town but their one remaining vehicle will not start. The sky is luminescent, and figures in 1950s fancy dress loiter in the woods. Then a seriously lacerated Michelle returns on foot at their door and collapses at their feet.

Investigating the fate of Dave while Shade tries to fix the vehicle, Q and Cody find him in a vehicle as dead as Dave is. Sleazy Elroy is unfortunately left to keep an eye on Michelle and molests the injured girl who to have her respond with a carnal effusion taking his hand and thrusting it up her skirt in the film's first real 'get a load of this' moment. Her lust turns into a violent attack as she rips several holes into him. Binding the possessed girl to the bed and recognising the serious mess that Elroy now is the group split up again, Cody and Megan visiting the nearest property and finding more signs of bloody mayhem waiting for them.

There is next a well-staged sequence again involving Michelle but then the film enters a final stage in which some cartoon supernatural villains capture the group tormenting them. If the biker credentials of the young stars were phoney then that fakery is easily surpassed by this unbelievable quintet of sickos. The leader of the gang, Vernon (Joe Egender) is about as threatening as Charles Hawtry and not of dissimilar build, and Jazz (Joseph McKelheer) does the Hucklebuck and acts like a faux barmy member of Madness in their heyday.

Their behaviour could have been nastier but the imagination is not forthcoming, for which I guess we can only be thankful. It may also have been that the clean-cut cast could only handle so much abject brutalism and luridness. To this end, the real star of the film is the only confirmed trooper and that is the incredibly game Tiffany Shepis. In the role of Michelle, she is the only cast member to persuade us that she is what the character demands, whether that is a two-faced slut or possessed by a demon.

She is also the only character to draw any real empathy. She goes into full-throttle possessed mode, a real threat, but then is ultimately vulnerable when on the slab, naked and prone, later in the film. The daft supernatural apocalyptic vision that closes the film fails to bother the viewer as this end of days silliness is falling upon an unrealistic world so badly sketched by the Butcher brothers that you wonder if they have ever actually lived on this planet at all or perhaps grew up in a locked room fed only comicbooks.

The Violent Kind



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