In a Violent Nature almost made me physically ill, and I loved it

I watch a good amount of horror — I’m not as devoted as some of my colleagues, but I consider myself relatively well versed in the genre, and conditioned to the depths of depravity it occasionally explores.

I’ve also been known to enjoy gory movies, even outside of horror. I’m well documented on this particular subject, especially when it comes to action movies, where full-on gore is rare but can add extra stakes and pops of surprise to a particularly intense fight. But nothing has come close to the visceral reaction I had in response to one particularly brutal moment in the new experimental slasher movie In a Violent Nature. The scene, and my reaction to it, shocked me.

From Canadian writer-director Chris Nash (ABCs of Death 2’s “Z Is for Zygote” segment), In a Violent Nature combines a slasher in the vein of Friday the 13th with the slow cinema of directors like Terrence Malick. The 94-minute movie, which premiered at Sundance this January and opened in theaters on May 31, follows the point of view of its silent killer. The movie is filled with long, unbroken shots behind the killer’s shoulder as he walks through tranquil forests and fields, stalking his prey. There is no musical score. It’s a deconstruction and reinvention of the slasher genre, which largely works very well. It’s moody and atmospheric. The deliberate pacing makes the pops of gore hit even harder.

Then we get to the scene that surprised me. I must again warn you before continuing: If you are at all squeamish, or just want to experience the gory details for yourself by watching the movie, please stop reading here. I will not judge you.

A figure with a mask on and two hooks in his hands stands facing a forest in the movie In A Violent Nature Image: Shudder

As the killer corners one of his victims, a young woman, near a cliff’s edge, the scene seems to be setting up a moment where she jumps to her death, or he pushes her off. Instead, the killer lodges a hook in her skull and uses the hook to pull her head down through her own stomach and out through her back. It’s extremely vivid — I get queasy just thinking about it — especially with the tremendous foley and effects work on her spine, which turns blue as the bones pop like tiny, gruesome fireworks under the strain.

On paper, that might sound like a cartoonish Mortal Kombat fatality. In practice, it’s startlingly real and upsetting. The combination of the contortions of the victim’s spine and the squelching and scraping noises as those bones break will continue to haunt me, which is a great credit to Nash and the entire team.

There have been reports of people throwing up in theaters when they saw this moment, and I don’t blame them. Nash, for his part, isn’t sure whether that’s true, but he told Dexerto, “I can’t take any pride in it, although I’m also not concerned.” If I hadn’t watched In a Violent Nature at home in the comfort of my couch, I could easily imagine myself joining their queasy ranks. The theater-watching experience is much more immersive, for better and for worse, depending on the movie and the audience. I could easily see this scene being overwhelming in that environment.

Gore isn’t a guarantee for success in horror. It’s simply one of many tools filmmakers can use in the genre to aid a movie. But when used well, it can create unforgettable moments that permanently lodge themselves in your brain. One of the reasons I watch movies is to provoke visceral reactions. On that rubric, no movie I’ve watched in 2024 (other than I Saw the TV Glow) has scored higher than In a Violent Nature. It’s an impressive feat for one of the year’s most fascinating movies.

In a Violent Nature is in theaters now.