Some films are good, some are bad and some are great, but there are those that can only be described as an utter delight and Villains fits that bill. It’s one of those demented, go for broke horror comedies that doesn’t always add up or coalesce it’s various tones together symmetrically but goddamn of it isn’t a blast of pitch black humour, blessed practical gore effects and four lead performances that truly push the boundaries of the craft of acting into something else. Maika Monroe and Bill Skarsgard play two unbelievably dumb petty criminals, a sort of dimestore Bonnie & Clyde, who run out of gas as they’re on the run after robbing… wait for it… a gas station. Their only option is to break into the nearest, and only, house in the area to look for more options and it’s there they find a five year old girl chained up in the basement, and must contend with the homeowners, a deranged pair of loons played with American Apple Pie hospitality and charm by Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick. These two chipper darlings are as crazy as they come and have soon ensnared the two wayward youngsters in their bizarre antics, while the two race to outsmart them and free the poor mute girl below. The plot can be kind of random and wanton, but the real treasure here lies in the meticulously calibrated, phenomenal acting work from all four and the razor sharp, diabolical scriptwriting to back them up. Monroe is already horror royalty from modern classics like It Follows and The Guest, while it goes without saying that Skarsgard is squarely in the pantheon for his portrayal of a certain evil clown. They work brilliantly together because they both lose their trademark moody, withdrawn and wistful styles of acting for a bubbly, effervescent, mile-a-minute-slapstick concoction that is joyous to watch, and manage manage to find a genuine sweetness and caring for each other that shines through all the more madcap, lurid elements and makes them rough yet lovable and blessedly bumbling characters to invest in. Donovan has slowly been building a repertoire of darkly sarcastic, terrifyingly dangerous villains in stuff like FX’s Fargo, Let Him Go and more, his work here is a class act in balancing insanity, southern charm and sudden bursts of punishing sadism. Sedgwick is a natural beauty who has this spotless Miss America aura to her that she turns on its head and plays to full effect as the mot certifiably bonkers character in the story, she’s at once scary, pitiable, sultry and hysterical. This is one of those specific, special flicks like Raimi’s Evil Dead or Friedkin’s Killer Joe where the story might not always play by the rules or stay on the tracks but you really don’t care because the actors just tear the scenery to shreds, the laughs and violence come fast and furious, there are even a few arthouse flourishes sprinkled in and it’s just such a wild fuckin ride. Great film.

-Nate Hill

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