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Review: VILLAINS (2019)

The writers/directors of Villains, Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, have an interesting, if short, list of feature credits. They wrote and directed Body before getting noticed for directing The Stakelander from a script by Nick Damici. They followed that up by writing, but not directing Don’t Kill It. Now they get to direct Villains, from their script that made Hollywood’s 2016 Black List.

Mickey (Bill Skarsgård, IT, Atomic Blonde) and Jules (Maika Monroe, It Follows, How To Be Alone) are a couple of small-time criminals. They also happen to be a very devoted couple as well. After robbing a convenience store they’re on their way to a new life in Florida. Until they run out of gas.

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Breaking into a nearby home, they discover some disturbing things. Interior decorating that looks like it came out of the 1977 Sears Catalog. That and a young girl chained up in the basement. Before they can free her, the home’s owners George (Jeffrey Donovan, Burn Notice, Shot Caller) and Gloria (Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer, Cop Car). They’re a devoted couple as well. They’re also hiding violent insanity under a facade of Southern charm.

Villains is the kind of film that’s hard to pull off. It pits bad guys against even worse guys, making it hard for the viewer to identify with anyone. Thankfully, the film is blessed with a great script and equally on-point acting. It gets us to like Mickey and Jules the same way True Romance or Bonny And Clyde did. And once we get to like them, we can cheer for them. Just as we can still see George and Gloria’s charm even after we see what they’re capable of.

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Other obvious influences include Raising Arizona and The People Under The Stairs. And if that sounds like an odd mix, this is an odd film. The film shifts from crime film to horror and dark comedy with a distinct regularity. From a literal throwaway gag near the film’s start that had me wanting to shout at the screen to a wonderfully surreal dinner scene, Villains slides smoothly between genres and styles. With one exception.

I won’t spoil it, I’ll just say the change up at the film’s end and the end itself didn’t work for me. It felt out of place compared to the rest of the film. Overall, though, Villains is an excellent film and deserves the praise it’s been getting on its festival run, most recently as Scary Movies XII’s Opening Night Film and Florida’s Popcorn Fright Film Festival.

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Villains will be in theaters September 20th via Alter, Gunpowder & Sky’s horror label. You can check the film’s website for more information.

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