Baruchel’s long-gestating horror project could very well succeed with such an agreeable cast.
Jay Baruchel has built a lot of his career on being the likable one. He rose to fame as an actor within the Judd Apatow school of comedy, playing one of the least frustrating characters in Knocked Up‘s lead ensemble. Since then, Baruchel basically portrayed the nerdy archetype in all its forms over the course of the 2000s. Raunchy comedies made up a good portion of his resume, but his filmography also included coming-of-age movies like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and animated gems like How to Train Your Dragon. He played a fictionalized version of himself in the apocalyptic disaster flick This is the End and still ended up being the reserved everyman.
Apart from these onscreen successes, Baruchel itched to direct. He’s even stated his desire in interviews over the years, and this particular one by The Huffington Post from back in 2013 demonstrates but one example of his candid earnestness about those big dreams:
“[Directing is] all I’ve ever wanted to do. I’d go so far as to say my interest in directing pre-dates theirs. I started acting when I was 12, but even then, I had known at 9 that all I wanted to do was direct action movies and horror movies.”
As it turns out, Baruchel’s specific aspirations to become a genre director are really coming true. He got his first shot at helming a movie when he crafted last year’s Goon sequel, Goon: Last of the Enforcers. Although not an action movie in the realm of explosions and gunfire, there’s a lot of bone cracking and blood spilling in those extreme sports movies.
Now, Baruchel will get behind the camera once again for an indie horror movie of epically brutal proportions. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Baruchel’s Random Acts of Violence is in full swing, kicking off production in Toronto. His involvement in the project dates back at least seven years when he initially signed on to pen the screenplay.
Besides co-writing the movie with Jesse Chabot (who also helped script the Goon sequel), Baruchel will juggle the roles of director, producer, and actor on Random Acts of Violence. Jesse Williams (The Cabin in the Woods), Jordana Brewster (The Fast and the Furious), and Niamh Wilson (Saw franchise) will star in the picture.
Random Acts of Violence is an adaptation of the eponymous Image Comics one-shot graphic novel by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (“Jonah Hex”). The premise centers on comic creators and best friends Todd (Williams) and Ezra (Baruchel), who have written a chilling horror book and suddenly found success. The duo then travels from Toronto to New York to attend a convention, taking Todd’s girlfriend Kathy (Brewster) and assistant Aurora (Wilson) along with them. However, while on the road, they encounter bloodthirsty opponents and suddenly life is imitating their very gruesome art.
Baruchel has dipped his toes into the horror genre in the past. One of his earliest appearances as a child actor was in Are You Afraid of the Dark? playing multiple characters. At least one of them was killed in a swimming pool. Of course, since then, his comedy career took off, but Baruchel has managed to toy with a number of thrillers. The darkly comedic Good Neighbours and David Cronenberg’s psychological odyssey Cosmopolis are unsettling features, even if they are certainly not all-out splatterfests.
Honestly, Random Acts of Violence more than likely keeps within the same over-the-top spirit as the Goon movies rather than other creepy offerings in Baruchel’s oeuvre. The first Goon was Baruchel’s debut feature screenwriting credit, and he and co-scribe Evan Goldberg absolutely smashed it. That hockey movie has so much tenderness thanks to a combination of the film’s life-affirming themes and Seann William Scott’s charming lead performance. Nevertheless, it is also exuberantly violent and distastefully raunchy.
As for Goon: Last of the Enforcers, Baruchel took an unbridled approach to his directorial debut, attempting to double down on all the ferocity and coarseness that percolate the first movie. Now writing with Chabot instead of Goldberg, Baruchel amped up every aspect in the movie but made it meaner and bloodier. That eventually backfired. The original story in the first film just works best as a contained case, and a lot of the emotional content of Goon is lost in the follow-up when the crudeness just gets out of hand. Without that crux, Baruchel’s no holds barred directing method doesn’t land all its punches with the same impact.
But this is where it all comes full circle to likability: the good thing about Baruchel’s sophomore effort is that its cast is not very well know, but still pretty damn charming. Baruchel has shown an aptitude for crafting scripts that can be elevated by sweet people, and this bunch fits the bill.
Williams finds his most regular gig playing a doctor on Grey’s Anatomy, but the show fluctuates in quality basically every season that although he started out as a more promising character, it’s a procedural schtick that gets boring. However, he made a huge impression as part of the awesome main ensemble in Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods. Williams is excellent at playing categorically heroic people, he emanates warmth and genuine niceness in the film. Now I’m wondering if playing the co-creator of a gruesome horror character will be different enough to challenge him.
Firstly, yes, Brewster did once play a bad protagonist in a bad Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel. Regardless, we all know her best as Mia Toretto in The Fast and the Furious franchise and we don’t mess with family! The thing is, Brewster is lovely onscreen, but her actual storylines in the Fast films have been dire, despite the fact that she can drive just as well as anyone else in those movies and maintains the emotional core of the Fast crew. Well, she’s tougher in CBS’ Lethal Weapon, at the very least. Here’s to hoping that Brewster’s girlfriend status in Random Acts of Violence doesn’t relegate her to something thankless yet again.
Finally, Wilson’s resume is the lightest of the group, but certain titles like Degrassi, the Saw movies, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet, and Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars definitely stand out. While these very disparate projects don’t present her with much to work with, they still display a pattern of progression in her filmography that shows her dipping into franchises and working with more notable auteurs. Now, the task for Random Acts of Violence is to give her a meatier role, for sure.
Baruchel showed utter enthusiasm oozes through his frenetic direction in Goon: Last of the Enforcers, but ultimately, the film didn’t have much else to back up his vision. His cast has shown promise in the past, but other projects have dampened their fire. Random Acts of Violence will, therefore, be a huge next step for everyone involved.