‘Vicious Fun’ Lives Up to its Name [Video]

Vicious Fun

Welcome to The Overlook Motel, a place where under-seen and unappreciated films are given their moment in the spotlight. I hope you enjoy your stay here and find the accommodations to be suitable. Now, please take a seat and make yourself comfortable; I have some misbehaving guests to ‘correct.’   

This week’s selection is a film I have been intending to showcase for some time. I’ve come dangerously close to spotlighting it on several occasions, but it hasn’t worked out until today. With that said, I couldn’t be more pleased to be singing the praises of Vicious Fun. This Shudder original horror comedy delivers copious amounts of carnage, belly laughs, and a series of unpredictable narrative developments. Watch the new episode here:

The film follows Joel (Evan Marsh), an awkward but well-meaning journalist working for a horror movie magazine. He has no luck with the ladies and spends his days pining away for his roommate, Sarah (Alexa Rose Steele), who barely knows he exists. After a night of binge drinking, Joel finds himself trapped in the bar of a Chinese restaurant after closing time. But he’s not alone. The watering hole he’s stuck in is home to a very unique self-help group. Joel initially assumes the attendees are there to discuss their struggles with substance abuse but is shocked to learn they are actually a ragtag band of psychotic killers. Fearing for his life, he tries to convince the group that he is one of them. 

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Joel is a well-realized protagonist. He is likable but still has plenty of room to grow, allowing for an arc that sees him finding his footing and coming into his own a bit. His status as a genre film journalist made him especially relatable to me. But even without that personal connection, Joel still makes for an effective lead. We’ve all felt like we didn’t fit in or pined away for someone that barely knew we were alive. And that makes him perfectly suited to this type of film. Vicious Fun is the type of flick where an ordinary protagonist is thrown into an extraordinary situation and must rely on inner strength they didn’t know they possessed. Well, it turns out Joel is much more capable than he realized, and watching him discover that is quite enjoyable. 

During the first act, the film’s most intense exchanges arise from our protagonist trying to think on the fly and maintain his cover. We know that the killers will eventually discover that Joel doesn’t belong. But co-writer/director Cody Calahan stretches that eventuality out for a spell. A series of near misses see the less-than-stealthy journalist doing his best to act natural and remain cool under pressure. But each new statement he makes seems to cast even more suspicion on him, ratcheting up the tension with each misstep.

Once the unsavory bar patrons find out about Joel, the tension reaches a boiling point. And from there, the narrative goes in some rather unexpected directions. Early on, I thought I had the proceedings pretty well figured out. I was certain that Vicious Fun would be a self-contained narrative that would unfold entirely within the restaurant. But the story frequently goes in the exact opposite direction of that which I’d anticipated. That was a pleasant surprise, and I commend Calahan for his ability to upend expectations early and often. 

Also Read: ‘The Midnight Meat Train’ is a Brutal Descent into Darkness [Watch]

In addition to being full of surprises, the film is also full of memorable characters. The members of the support group make for a colorful collection of supporting players. David Koechner is predictably entertaining as group leader Zachary. He makes the most of his screen time, delivering some of his signature deadpan humor. Ari Millen really shines as a lady killer (both figuratively and literally) with no shortage of charisma. He shows a surprising amount of versatility as he is tasked with disguising his identity in pursuit of our protagonist. Amber Goldfarb also puts up an impressive showing in her turn as Carrie. She’s the most mysterious member of the group and manages to be surprisingly accessible in spite of her proclivity for violence. But I will leave it at that to ensure I don’t give too much away. 

The detectives that eventually arrive on the scene also prove to be a welcome addition to the cast. They are brought to life with hilarious aplomb by Mark Gibson and Kristopher Bowman. They embody a sampling of cinematic stereotypes common to law enforcement characters in ‘80s cinema. The mustachioed officers of the law look like supporting characters from an episode of Miami Vice and act like bumbling idiots. Their ineptitude reaches comic proportions, resulting in some hearty laughs. 

Vicious Fun functions as a period piece that is playing out in the early ‘80s. Although some of the dialogue doesn’t quite fit with the period in which the story is unfolding, the film still manages to be a fun throwback. The set pieces, wardrobe, hairstyles, and accessories serve as a nostalgic return to the height of the slasher boom. The cast is decked out in Member’s Only jackets, acid-washed jeans, and puffer vests. Anyone that enjoys that cinematic time period is likely to appreciate the film’s recreation of a bygone era. 

All in all, this brutal and darkly comedic effort is a twisty ride that serves up laughs and thrills in equal measure. If you’re game to check Vicious Fun out for yourself, you can catch it streaming on Shudder or grab a copy of the flick on physical media. 

That’s all for this installment of The Overlook Motel. If you want to chat more about under-seen and underrated films, feel free to hit me up with your thoughts on Threads @FunWithHorror.



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