Sometimes when you see a film for the first time, you can just instantly tell that it is going to divide people, and this is certainly one of them. ‘For the Sake of Vicious’ is very aptly named, as it is packed full of seemingly senseless violence and real terror. The film has a tight running time and it makes the most of every minute of it, with no time wasted on screen which gives the film a real feeling of onwards momentum all the way through.
‘For the Sake of Vicious’ starts out with a nurse called Romina (Lora Burke) returning home from a shift on the night of Halloween and getting ready to pick up her son to go trick or treating. However, as soon as she returns home, she is startled to find Chris (Nick Smyth) already inside, and he is not alone. He is armed with a gun and has another man badly beaten and tied up downstairs. The other man is Alan (Colin Paradine), the rich landlord to Romina and the man Chris believes is responsible for the rape of his young daughter. Chris continues to become more unpredictable and volatile as he attempts to violently force a confession from Alan, and Romina in the meantime tries to keep Alan alive. Things then escalate even more when a group of masked men invade the house and events descend into complete madness.
Instead of the standard three act structure, the film plays out very much in two distinct halves. The first half of the film unfolds almost like a play, with the three lead characters essentially locked inside Romina’s house in a tense stand-off with character motivations and history being gradually revealed as the tension builds up. I found this to be incredibly effective and a real sense of dread was created, as you hang on every word and action of the three very unpredictable leads.
However, in the second half of the film it erupts into a pure genre thrill ride packed full of extreme violence and brutal kills with every type of weapon imaginable, as the house is invaded by masked men with ulterior motives. It then becomes an outright horror film with our protagonist(s) having to do battle with an army of madmen in order to stay alive and work out what is going on. It is packed full of crushed skulls, exploding chests, and agonized screams in a non-stop blood bath that doesn’t allow you to come up for breath.
The film truly doesn’t settle down at all as soon as the second half begins which will thrill some but left me feeling slightly frustrated that the moral questions and commentary on society that seemed to be raised throughout fall to the wayside and are almost entirely forgotten about in some cases. This left me with a very unfulfilled feeling because the film had initially leaned into the consequences of the power dynamics between rich landlords and their poor tenants, the lack of accountability for the rich and powerful in society at large, and the crimes they are able to get away with. This is important stuff and it felt wasted here with the way the film played out.
One of my other main issues with the film was the acting, as only Lola Burke convinced me in her role. The two other leads seemed very stilted and honestly lacking in a compelling screen presence that made you buy into the crazy antics of their characters. It is lucky for the film then that Burke is at the centre of it, and is able to provide a very calming and engaging performance. She really instils in Romina an incredible willingness to stay clear-headed and reasonable even though she has found herself at the centre of events that just keep spiralling. Romina has her flaws but you immediately root for her because the first thought is always about how she can deescalate the situation, and you truly buy into Burke in that role.
I think almost universally people will appreciate the effectiveness of the first half of the film and the way it builds suspense and tension despite it just essentially being three people talking in a house, but it is the second half of the film that will split the audience. Some will see it as unnecessary torture porn that sends the story off in an unnecessary direction, and others who are genre lovers will appreciate how the film fully commits to the violence and entertaining chaos. I have to respect the film for at least eliciting such strong reactions from the audience, as that is better than a general indifference.
Rating = 2.5/5