Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Vicious Fun, on Shudder

These days, being a horror film critic is about the most prestigious work you can do, right? It wasn’t really like that back in the 1980s. The truth is Joel is considered a little weird by most people, including the roommate he carries a torch for. Unfortunately, he will stumble into a real-life horror show when he accidentally crashes a gathering of serial killers in Cody Calahan’s Vicious Fun, which starts streaming today on Shudder.

Joel writes for a magazine called
Vicious Fun, but he is actually a very nice guy—and not a lot of fun. Frustrated by his romantic ineptitude, Joel follows his roommate’s new boyfriend Bob to a restaurant, where he gets hammered and passes out in the gents. When he comes to, he encounters a group encounter session for serial killers underway. Don’t call them anonymous, though they are. This meeting is more about professional development than curbing their instincts.

Freaked-out Joel tries to assume the identity of their missing member, but he isn’t very convincing. So much for all his horror movie training. However, Carrie the loner also seems to have her own agenda and she starts saving his butt, at least for a while.

Calahan and screenwriter James Villeneuve’s humor is definitely hit-or-miss, but it hits more frequently than a lot of horror-comedies. The CIA agent serial killer is definitely a hurtful stereotype (but hey, thank you intelligence officers for your service and sacrifice). Frankly, Shudder will also be lucky if they can sneak Hideo, the Japanese cannibal-chef possibly inspired by the subject of
Caniba, past the cancelling censors.

At least the rest of the serial killers are appropriately creepy and darkly funny. Rob Maillet and Ari Millen are well-cast as the Jason-like axe murdering Mike and the Ted Bundy-esque Bob (the Members Only jacket is a nice period touch). However, cult-favorite Julian Richings is a weird and wacked-out standout as Fritz, the meticulous Hannibal Lecter-type, with a penchant for clown makeup. As Joel, Evan Marsh is a game fish-out-of-water-goofball, but he is meant to be overshadowed by everyone else.

Despite the gore and predatory human nature on display,
Vicious Fun is a strangely likable fun, with a lot of 1980s genre cred. It is considerably funnier and more pleasant to spend time with than the thematically similar Random Acts of Violence. Recommended for fans of horror-comedies and old school slashers, Vicious Fun starts streaming today (6/29) on Shudder.