While the world may be in the middle of a historic pandemic, that still isn’t enough to stifle Canadian actor and filmmaker Jay Baruchel’s excitement as his most recent film, Random Acts of Violence, is finally being released to the general public after about 10 years of work.
“It’s been Christmas Eve for a decade,” Baruchel told Yahoo Canada. “With every year added into the development, it just made the coming out more sweet.”
The horror flick will have its Toronto premiere at The 5 Drive-In in Oakville, Ont. on Jul. 29, after making its debut at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas last year. Although this movie may not be getting the theatrical release one may expect, Baruchel maintains that safety during this health crisis should be the priority and he’s happy to have people see the film in their homes.
“If there’s a safe way for people to see it in a theatre then that’s awesome but I don’t need that,” Baruchel said. “I don’t subscribe to the romance of the movie theatre,...when I say that I mean, I look back over my 38 years of watching movies, the vast, vast, vast majority were at home.”
“I also knew going in that this was not Harry Potter or a Marvel movie, so this was always going to be a small thing and chances are it was going to find its audience in people’s houses.”
‘We’re not the same guys that we were when we wrote the very first treatment’
Fans of Baruchel’s previous work, like his acting in Tropical Thunder and Million Dollar Baby, lending his voice to the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, his directorial debut in the the second Goon film, or even hosting the classic Canada television show Popular Mechanics for Kids, may not know that he is a massive horror and action cinema fan, calling it his “raison d'être.”
“I made horror movies with my friends all throughout high school, including the guy that I wrote this movie with, Jesse [Chabot],” Baruchel said. “We were huge Fangoria heads and big Fantasia nerds, we’d cue up at Fantasia like a mother f---er every single year.”
Based on the comic by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, Random Acts of Violence follows Slasherman comic book creator Todd (Jesse Williams), his wife Kathy (Jordana Brewster), assistant Aurora (Niamh Wilson) and best friend, Hard Calibre Comics owner Ezra (Baruchel), on a road trip from Toronto to New York City for comic con.
Todd is struggling to figure out an ending to his series, while Kathy is in the process of working on a book documenting the stories of the victims of the serial killer who inspired the Slasherman saga. On the journey, the group discovers that someone is using the comics as inspiration for a series of killings.
Baruchel and Chabot’s passion and care for the film comes through in Random Acts of Violence, which sets itself apart for some of the more slapdash horror flicks in more recent years. Each of the main characters have been developed with their own story to tell.
“There seems to be a feeling of a lot of slasher cinema that you’re kind of...at a certain point rooting for all the kills to just...get them over with, and you don’t see yourself in any of these characters or even really enjoy hanging out with them,” Baruchel said.
As the deaths continue to occur on their road trip, many involving women and families, Todd has to grapple with the mental and emotional impact of such real-life violence being drawn from his work.
“The kind of dialectic that’s contained in the film is definitely a product of our script not getting made into a movie,” Baruchel said. “The debates in our film, and the kind of commentary and questions posed, are debates and questions and commentaries that we have made ourselves about our film.”
Random Acts of Violence showcases a striking use of greens, reds and yellows to effectively set the scene for the eerie truths revealed throughout the story, and the gruesome murders.
‘It felt close to what it used to be to just make movies for fun’
In terms of his approach to directing the film, Baruchel said he wanted the set of Random Acts of Violence to feel the way he felt with legendary directors Clint Eastwood and David Cronenberg, “stress-free” places to work. He also pulled directing inspiration from Ben Stiller who welcomed feedback and new ideas from the actors in Tropic Thunder.
“Tropic Thunder would have been every bit as funny as it is, had we shot just exactly the way it was written, because that script was strong as hell, but he also knew that he has Jack Black and Robert Downey, and they might have some ideas that didn’t occur to him that might make the movie better,” he said.
“I felt a degree of freedom on that set that I didn’t really necessarily have the right to feel because who the f--- was I compared to them and yet, I always felt that if I had an interesting...piece to come up with that would add something to the scene, I always felt free to do it.”
Since beginning his career at the age of 12, Baruchel has discovered the common thread between the sets he like working on the most.
“I realized, why I like those sets so much, is it felt close to what it used to be to just make movies for fun on the weekends with my friends in high school and that’s kind of the vibe I want,” he said.
‘I see no reason why we can’t kind of step in’
Baruchel is also known for his commitment to making Canadians films, both shot and set in the country, including Random Acts of Violence. But while COVID-19 persists he is taking the lead from Canada’s health experts on how to move forward in the film industry.
With leaders like B.C. Premier John Horgan saying major American studios are looking at “Hollywood north” to shoot their films, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the U.S., Baruchel agreed that this could be a good opportunity for Canada’s film industry, but only if it’s safe.
“If it is legitimately doable and safe and feasible then why the f--- not and it could be a really good thing for the art form and the industry up here,” he said. “If they seem to think it is and it seems to work then yeah, I see no reason why we can’t kind of step in.”
Random Acts of Violence will be available in theatres and on-demand platforms in Canada on Jul. 31. The film will be on U.S. streaming service Shudder on Aug. 20.