Film, Film Review

REVIEW: Vicious Fun (2020) dir. Cody Calahan

Streaming on Shudder Tuesday, 6/29


Vicious Fun is a gore-soaked, sidesplitting, merciless, and stylishly shot flick that couldn’t have a better title if it tried. Between its comedic timing, relentless splatters of gore, and unforgettable characters, Vicious Fun has everything you need.

And it’s a goddamn blast.

Director Cody Calahan (Antisocial, Let Her Out) delivers his latest film, Vicious Fun, with stunning neon-lit shots, juicy ’80s nostalgia, and some killer characters.

The film opens with Joel (Evan Marsh). He’s a caustic, goofy, and naive but ambitious film critic and editor of Vicious Fanatics, a horror magazine à la Fangoria or Rue Morgue. Joel is a passionate horror fan who longs for something better and to be taken more seriously by those around him. He dreams of becoming a screenwriter and snagging a date with his uninterested roommate, Sarah (Alex Steele).

After Sarah returns home from a date with a handsome stranger (Ari Millen), Joel catches him putting on a wedding ring and hopping back in his car after making a phone call. Hoping to expose the guy as a married man so that Sarah will go out with him, Joel follows him to a neon-drenched Chinese bar in the darkest depths of town.

There, he sits at the bar and uses a fake name to discover that the stranger—named Bob—is a pick-up artist who uses the wedding ring to trick women into hooking up with him. Upset that he has no proof, Joel goes on a drinking binge (in one of my favorite comedic sequences of the film) and ends up calling Sarah, projectile-vomiting all over the bar’s payphone, and passing out in the utility closet. Joel’s weak stomach is a running joke throughout the movie.

When he comes to and sobers up, Joel is bewildered to find that the restaurant’s lights are on, but the doors are chained shut. When he goes back into the main bar, he accidentally stumbles in on a self-help group for depraved serial killers, led by government assassin Zachary (Anchorman‘s David Koechner).

They prompt him, saying he must be Phil, the newest addition to their crew, whom they’ve yet to meet. Choosing to blend in rather than become their next victim, Joel sputters out that he is, in fact, Phil. All hell breaks loose when Bob strolls back into the bar, revealing himself to be the final killer to join the group meeting—and that he is planning to kill Sarah after two more dates.

Vicious Fun is one of the best horror flicks I’ve seen in recent years, and I attribute some of that to its spectacular and crazy characters.

Joel is a hilarious self-insert of the audience, and immediately you feel comfortable with him and root for his survival (also—bonus points to Calahan for dressing Joel up like Marty McFly). He’s bumbling, sweaty, and babbles at the sight of the circle of killers who eye him up with scathing suspicion.

The murderers are a highlight of the film—each character is a certain “type” of a serial killer, and are introduced by name, M.O., and stats of how many they’ve killed like they’re a Pokémon card. There’s the “Dahmer” cannibal killer, Hideo (Sean Baek); the “Bundy” smooth-talking killer and ring-leader, Bob; the “Jason” camp killer, Mike (Robert Maillet); and the unassuming “clown” killer, Fritz (Julian Richings). They’re a rag-tag gang of bone-chilling creeps, and none of them are forgotten after the film stops rolling.

Amongst them, Millen’s Bob steals the show. From his platinum blond hair to his unsettling dance moves at the bar’s jukebox, he’s like the freakish, ruthless lovechild of American Psycho‘s Patrick Bateman and The Purge‘s Polite Leader. He’s bloodthirsty and downright hilarious, and Millen does beautifully in the role—it’s evident he’s having the time of his life.

Another highlight is Carrie (Amber Goldfarb), the enigmatic only female killer in the crew. She’s clad in leather and lace, and her eyes are smothered in black makeup. With her chopped, platinum blonde hair slicked back, she’s a total badass. Without giving too much away about Carrie here, all I can say is that she’s quickly become one of my favorite females in horror.

The kills in Vicious Fun are, well, pretty damn vicious. From dismemberment to nails through the forehead and syringes through the eye to desks smashing on skulls, Calahan does not hold back. These grisly deaths have some seriously cool and head-bobbing synthwave tracks featured in the background. The soundtrack is so good, in fact, that I hunted down the film’s unofficial playlist on Calahan’s Spotify—it’s worth a listen.

The film’s clever, tight ending put a massive smile on my face—but I’ll let you see it for yourself.

Vicious Fun is an electric, gory film that’s brimming with Blockbustery nostalgia, chaotic characters, and oozing with campy goodness. If you’re a horror fan, you don’t want to miss this. It’s one of Shudder’s strongest films to date, and I’m excited to see what else Calahan has in store for the future.

Vicious Fun
dir. Cody Calahan
103 min.

Vicious Fun streams on Shudder starting June 29!

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