Ultraviolence is too often seen as a cinematic end in itself – but the results are often ugly, boring, or both. This Canadian home-invasion thriller falls into this trap, so ferociously focused on the scent of blood that it double-kneecaps one character not once but twice: by hammer, then by gunshot. But given that co-director Gabriel Carrer’s past credits include Kill, The Demolisher, and Death on Scenic Drive, we probably shouldn’t be expecting The Bridges of Madison County here.
The film starts as a mysterious and alarmingly claustrophobic three-hander: nurse Romina (Lora Burke) knocks off a long Halloween shift and comes home to find that wild-eyed Chris (Nick Smyth) has taken her landlord Alan (Colin Paradine) hostage. Chris claims Alan raped his daughter five years ago; the courts let it slide, and he wants to extract the confession that will justify him taking the ultimate revenge. “This kitchen is not a courthouse, and I am not a clerk,” says Romina. But adjudicating the truth is exactly what she must do – potentially enraging Chris, on the shortest of leashes and who may be projecting his own misdeeds on the man hogtied to a chair.
Sadly, when Alan manages to call in outside help, the film drops this high-tension triangle and lets slip the dogs of gore. This squanders some impressively unhinged acting by Smyth, alternating between a rigid thousand-mile stare and surges of raving abandon that suggest an out-of-body experience. One early, promising scene in which Sarah resuscitates Alan with one hand while sweet-talking her son on the phone with the other showcases all the tension lost in the glassy-eyed – and sometimes illogically staged – bloodbath that takes over. The daft title tries to promise splatterhouse brazenness, but actually fesses up to the film’s lack of imagination.
For the Sake of Vicious is released on 19 April on digital platforms.