The A-Frame Interview Reveals Horror Influences
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The A-Frame Interview Reveals Horror Influences

Experimental slasher In a Violent Nature, writer/director Chris Nash’s feature debut, sliced up an impressive opening weekend at the box office and received critical acclaim for its unique take on the slasher subgenre. But there’s one standout moment that has horror fans buzzing: a centerpiece kill so unexpected and gnarly that it ensures undead killer Johnny (Ry Barrett) is a slasher villain to remember.

In a Violent Nature frames the slasher events from the perspective of Johnny, summoned from the dead when a locket is removed from a collapsed fire tower in the woods that entombs his rotting corpse. In a recent chat, Chris Nash and Ry Barrett revealed just how tough this experimental slasher was to make, with Barrett joining the cast well into production, prompting extensive reshoots. That also applies to the aforementioned kill, which is best described as a “yoga pretzel.”

In this sequence, Johnny comes upon Aurora (Charlotte Creaghan) as she’s practicing yoga cliffside. He disembowels her with a rusty hook, then pulls her head back and through the gaping hole in her torso, contorting her body into a gruesome pretzel. It’s a scene that caught Barrett’s attention before taking the role.

Yoga pretzel

Barrett explains, “When I read that in the script, that was the scene where I was like, ‘Okay, now we’re really getting into it.’ And it just kept going and going. There was another step to it, another step, and I was just like, ‘I wonder if they’re actually going to do all of this. That’s what I was thinking. Then, sure enough, we did it all.

“That whole scene, actually, there’s a span of almost a year, from the lead-up to Johnny walking up to her, and then when the actual kill starts to happen; we didn’t have enough time to pull off the full effects of her getting killed,” he continues. “Then there was a weather thing or something, but we couldn’t shoot at that location. I think the weather maybe didn’t match or something, so we had to go back on another block and pick up the rest of that kill from the point of literally just the hook. So, there was almost a whole year in between that location and coming back to it. They went and re-matched the weeds and the leaves and everything to look like that. But I mean, I’ve watched the movie twice now, and even knowing that, I haven’t noticed it.

The actor also walks us through what’s going through Johnny’s mind at that particular moment.

Personally, I tried to give Johnny, just for his motivation, he’s a bit of a wild animal, and there’s no logic at certain points other than he’s on this one mission to get this thing back, Barrett explains. “I think everything else in between is just whatever comes in his way in getting to that main goal; he just doesn’t want to deal with it, basically. I looked at him as a wild animal, as something that belonged where he was, and everything else to him didn’t belong there other than the trees and nature. That was my mentality of looking into things.

“I think the yoga pretzel was that Chris wanted to do something so different and crazy, with so many steps to it, that it was just something that no one would’ve ever seen before. Then having it on this setting of this cliff top just added to everything, too.

In a Violent Nature trailer

Extensive reshoots meant that this impressive sequence was also affected, and Nash details just how tricky the standout kill was to execute. More specifically, Nash reveals just how long it took to pull this moment together.

Nash tells us, “All the pieces were filmed months and months apart. We started filming that in early May, and then we filmed a second chunk of it, the majority chunk in August. Then, we did pickups in December in my producer’s mother’s backyard. That kill especially is made up of little different tableaus of inner spice, little details of what’s happening to the victim’s body. Building everything was quite difficult, but it wasn’t that difficult to piece it all together. For instance, the one shot that we got in the producer’s mother’s backyard was when the character’s neck is down and we just see a little bit of vertebrae pop up out of her neck. That was just angled downwards, so we can just throw a bunch of dirt on the ground and kind of cover everything up.

“The only thing that we had to fight was the fact that there was a huge seasonal change between May and August in Northern Ontario, Nash continues. “Luckily, we were mainly shooting into the sky because it’s an elevated area. There were ways that we could get around it for sure. As far as where I came up with and how I envisioned that one, I was always trying to figure out deaths that were very specific and unique to his implements. So I was just thinking, for that one especially, what can I do with the hooks? A knife wouldn’t work the same. So yeah. I can’t tell you exactly where it started, but the whole step-by-step process was, ‘How could this get worse? And just coming to a point where ‘There’s no fixing this. Even if you called the doctor right now, there’s no help.’”

Johnny overlooking cliff

Prosthetic effects lead Steven Kostanski (Psycho Goreman, The Void) emphasized just how much shifted in production, save for Aurora’s unforgettable demise. He details, “Some stuff had to get truncated a bit. There were certain kills where they had to simplify them, but that was more on a production level, not necessarily the gag itself. The Aurora death, where she gets spiked in the head and pulled through her own stomach, I feel like he had that from the beginning and was dead set on making that happen. That was definitely one of the more ambitious gags that he hard committed to making sure we got on screen. Thankfully, with all those big sequences, he would do simple storyboards for them so I could at least have a sense of what I’m looking at in the frame. Because in prosthetics and in effect, it’s always about where can I hide blood tubes, where can I hide people? What is the action that the shot needs, and what do I need to do to sell that illusion? Chris was really good about committing to how to shoot this stuff and giving me that direction so I knew how to pull off the illusion.”

Kostanski breaks the kill down, “It’s an elaborate gag, so the problem is that it all can’t be done in one body. While in the scene, it feels like it’s one thing happening. It’s actually multiple bodies doing different things. It was just time contingent, like how much time do you have to set up and blood rig and prep these things on a day, so it necessitated shooting it over multiple days. Again, just how elaborate it was. I built a chunk of it, Chris built a chunk of it. The beat where her spine was separating was all Chris. He built that on his own, and I was more just focused on getting the actual three Aurora bodies ready to go.

“One of them was built just for taking the spike in the head and starting to tilt down, and then the second body was taking it from 90 degrees into the stomach, and then the third body was pulling the head through the stomach. Because obviously, the cavity that Johnny punches through her stomach is only so big. So, on that third and final body, we had to cheat it a lot bigger to accommodate a head pushing through. Yeah, it was just a very elaborate gag with a lot of moving parts, a lot of pieces, and it just necessitated shooting it over multiple days.”

In a Violent Nature slasher kill

Of course, Aurora’s standout death isn’t the only grisly end for the film’s unlucky campers. But for Kostanski, it’s still his favorite. He says, “That Aurora kill is so iconic that it’s hard not to pick that one because I’ve never seen that before, and that was Chris’s intention, to actually do something that had never been done. I think it fully succeeds at that. It’s a pretty insane moment. That really summarizes the movie, which is full of subtlety and more of a tone poem-type scenes, and then we cut into a girl getting a spike in her head and pulled through her own stomach. I think that chaotic opposition to the two types of movies happening in the same movie is what makes it so interesting and fun. Yeah, I’d say the Aurora kill is the best one.”

In a Violent Nature is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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