(director/writer: Jay Baruchel; screenwriters: Jesse Chabot/based on a 2010 comic by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray; cinematographer: Karim Hussain; editor: Andrew Gordon Macpherson; music: Wade MacNeil; cast: Jesse Williams (Todd Walkley), Jordana Brewster (Kathy),  Niamh Wilson (Aurora), Jay Baruchel (Ezra), Simon Northwood (The Man), Clark Backo (Todd’s Mother); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Noah Segal/Randy Manis/Jay Baruchel; Shudder; 2019)

“Seemed more like a typical exploitation film than an art film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Canadian actor-turned filmmaker, Jay Baruchel (“Goon: Last of the Enforcers”), directs and acts in this grizzly dark satire of the creative process–it asks the pandering question if there’s a connection between real-life violence and violence on the screen. While in the process creating such an extremely gory film it seems hypocritical of the filmmaker for trying to damn such films if that’s the kind of film he makes. The filmmaker tries to get away with having it both ways, by profiting from it as an exploitative bloody slasher film and then as a film he critiques.

It’s adapted to the screen by the director and Jesse Chabot, from a 2010 comic by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. 

The comic book writer Todd Walkley (Jesse Williams), suffering from a traumatized childhood, and his publisher Ezra (Jay Baruchel), have created a successful comic book based on the real-life uncaught serial killer Slasherman (Simon Northwood). The comic book creators leave Toronto in their old Town Car and return for a publicity tour to the rural American town where the killer terrorized the community two decades earlier (but for the last twenty years has kept quiet). The comic book people have come for both a press tour and to get inspiration for their final issue, as writer’s block stops it from being written.

They’re surprised that the killings begin again–seemingly inspired by the Slasherman writer’s visit. These murders closely resemble the creatively grisly killings in Todd’s comics, by the welding mask wearing psychopath.

Also visiting are Todd’s level-headed girlfriend Kathy (Jordana Brewster), who’s writing a book about the victims of the I-90 killings and doesn’t approve of the way her boyfriend admires the highway killer, and Ezra’s aspiring artist assistant Aurora (Niamh Wilson).

The director mixes comedy with brutality, as he uses animation, graphic art and flashbacks to give the town a comic book look, and at the book signing fixates on the freaky costumed fans.

What’s unconvincing is how phony and superficial the comic book people are as they over-react in horror when the violence escalates. I felt their phoniness as well as the film’s. The satire seemed more like a typical exploitation film than an art film.
brewster, williams,
        baruchel and wilson