Fans of masked mayhem have been well served in recent years with an influx of films like The Purge series, You’re Next, The Furies and more. With For the Sake of Vicious, directors Reese Eveneshen and Gabriel Carrer plant their own ultra-violent flag in the action-horror niche, delivering an eruption of carnage that begs to be seen with a midnight crowd.

With a runtime of exactly 80 minutes, For the Sake of Vicious divides its thrills into halves of near equal length. That first half is 40 minutes of anxious chamber-piece conflict, as Romina (Lora Burke) returns home after another long nursing shift and runs headlong into an interloper already inside. Panicked confusion quickly turns to cautious negotiation; the unhinged, enraged Chris (Nick Smyth) has a captive bleeding in her kitchen and needs Romina to keep the man alive. Amid impromptu medical care and hammers to the kneecap, Romina becomes the mediating force between a vengeful father and Alan (Colin Paradine), the man Chris is accusing of raping his daughter. Paradine spends most of his time onscreen tied to a chair and grunting in pain, but still manages to exude a smarmy scumminess that reinforces his captor’s rage. With the threat of frontier justice looming over her kitchen tiles, Burke’s confident no-bullshit performance is a compelling anchor, especially when the first half’s drama overstays its welcome or her co-lead strays into overacted rage.

Then the masked killers roll up and For the Sake of Vicious discards its tense character-driven intrigue for 40 minutes of gore-splattered suburban siege. Autumnal Halloween night acts as a fitting backdrop for the waves of death that follow. Suddenly there are (extremely underdeveloped) underworld agendas at play, faceless invaders in masks and motorcycle helmets knocking at the door and a house full of improvised weapons poised for grisly slaughter. Eveneshen and Carrer cram the house’s tight halls and tighter rooms with blades, bludgeons, bullets and ropey blood spray. The action is about as gruesome as a film like The Night Comes for Us, but trades slick choreography for sloppy desperation and a jagged synth score. Characters? Suspense? Stressful revenge drama? The first half’s thriller dynamics are drowned in an unadulterated grindhouse onslaught of busted eyeballs, spurting throats, and ample bodily destruction that will be hard to top as the year’s messiest action finale. It’s a genre flick monkey’s paw: brutal survive-the-night mayhem that throws away its narrative intensity for the intensity of agonizing screams and relentless blows to the head. Vicious indeed!

The opening hook twists home-invasion conventions into a contained pressure-cooker, aided by Burke‘s strong performance. Its gore-drenched half is an adrenaline rush of survival carnage, essentially an entirely different film in pacing and tone, its characters reduced to flailing weapons and walking bloodbags. Come for the taut tension, come for the visceral splatter, but the jarring transition undercuts both facets. For the Sake of Vicious’ dueling halves result in a film that seems destined for divisiveness, thrilling in the moment but forgettable as the end credits roll.

Summary
Eveneshen and Carrer plant their own ultra-violent flag in the action-horror niche, delivering an eruption of carnage that begs to be seen with a midnight crowd.
60 %
A Vicious Split
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