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In a Violent Nature’s Chris Nash on creating the most disturbing horror movie ever made

A killer looms over the country in In a Violent Nature.
IFC Films

Horror movies have been on a roll recently, with last year’s M3GAN and Insidious: The Red Door earning massive amounts of cash at the box office. They’ve been critical darlings too, with Skinamarink and 2024’s The First Omen getting praise for their elegantly crafted scares. But how many of these horror movies have been truly disturbing by dishing out some of the most graphic deaths ever?

In A Violent Nature is that horror movie. Ever since its premiere at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, the film has been building hype for its outrageous and gory deaths, as well as its unique approach to the slasher subgenre. Digital Trends recently talked to the movie’s director, Chris Nash, about why he opted to center his narrative around the killer rather than his victims, why there are two different versions of the movie, and potential sequels plans for the sure-to-be breakout horror hit of the season.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Digital Trends: The film is commonly compared to Friday the 13th and its many sequels, which is accurate, but also doesn’t fully convey what this movie really is. You’ve embraced those comparisons in other interviews. How influential were those movies when you started to think about In a Violent Nature? And in what ways does the movie differ from those slashers?

Chris Nash, director of In A Violent Nature: Well, I think the key difference is aesthetics. Other than that, I don’t think it differs that much from Friday the 13th. I think the whole attitude going into it was instead of focusing on the campers, which the Jason movies usually center their narratives around, what if we focused on the killer instead? Our main goal, and the main challenge of shooting it, was sticking with our thesis statement of following our slasher Johnny for as long as we can.

A woman screams a killer approaches in In a Violent Nature.
IFC Films

There’s an inherent dichotomy that arises from subverting that slasher horror trope. With In a Violent Nature, you’re really watching two films at the same time: the one that is in front of you that follows the killer, and the one that we’re used to seeing in the Friday the 13th slashers, which is happening on the margins. The campers are there, and they all have their stories, but we only hear snippets of it, because we’re with the killer observing them from a distance. Did you think about the risks in potentially alienating the audience because they don’t have like a relatable character to latch on to, or any kind of clear narrative for them to follow?

It was definitely a concern, but we’ve really tried our hardest not to let that enter into our heads. We set these rules up for ourselves and committed to them: follow the killer, have no narration, and have no score, which is another deviation from a typical slasher film. There were times when we doubted ourselves, sure. Is this too much? Are we creating something that’s way too antagonistic for an audience to enjoy? Whenever we felt that kind of hesitation, though, we always had to dial back to the rules that we had set in the first place.

When we were shooting in the woods, with all that beautiful scenery, it made me question a bit about how we were shooting the movie. Should we switch from an aspect ratio to widescreen to capture all that beautiful imagery? And we decided no, we can’t do that. We have to stick with what we had laid out for ourselves. We just had to silence those doubtful voices as much as we could.

I read an interview your [director of phtography], Pierce Derkes, gave in Filmmaker Magazine where he mentioned that the movie started out as something completely different from what it finally ended up being. Did it start as a straightforward slasher movie? And if so, why did you go in a different direction?

Well, it was always going to be a horror movie told from the killer’s point of view. We had a lot of trouble making the film. In fact, what you see on the screen is our second attempt at making In a Violent Nature. We spent four weeks trying to shoot the film with a largely different crew, but most of the same cast. And during that block of shooting, I would say we shot 75% to 80% of the film.

That’s probably what Pierce was referring to because it was like we shot a completely different film. The aesthetics were a bit different. There were choices we made that we realized, “oh, this is kind of it’s not conveying the same tone and mood that we want.” For example, the camera was following too close behind Johnny, our slasher, and as a result, he was taking up too much space in the frame. And consequently, that wasn’t letting the environment breathe in the image, if that makes sense.

In a Violent Nature - "Buckle Up" Trailer | HD | IFC Films

So when we made the decision to reshoot the film, our original director of photography couldn’t return. He had another job lined up, so Pierce, who at the time was our behind-the-scenes and second-unit director of photography, stepped up and shot the rest of it. When we examined the footage from the first time we shot it, it gave us a much more focused starting point as far as what we had to do to nail the tone that we originally wanted to create.

It’s really weird looking at the assembly edit of the first time we tried shooting it versus what we ended up with. Because they feel like two completely different movies.

Does that footage still exist? Maybe it could be included as an extra on the Criterion Blu-ray down the road.

Yeah, when Criterion finally gets off their asses and releases this movie. [laughs]  It exists in the behind-the-scenes footage Pierce captured while we made it. I know he’s got all the footage. He’s been working his way through it whenever he has the time. I believe the idea is to cut in the original block of shooting within the doc and to have it live there.

In a Violent Nature features some of the most graphic deaths I’ve ever seen. I have to borrow a question my mother asked me about my horror-watching habits: What kind of sick mind comes up with something like that?

When I’m writing the kills, I’m trying to try to make something as unique as possible. I didn’t want to have a movie that was just a bunch of throats getting slashed. I have a history as a prosthetics artist as well. The prosthetics lead we had on this film, Steve Costanza, is also a director with quite a few films under his belt. So we both understood the technical aspects of shooting effects and building them out. And also, we both get very, very bored with unoriginal horror movie deaths. OK, this person is gonna get stabbed, this person’s gonna get their throat slit, etc.

A man in a mask fiddles with a tool in In a Violent Nature.
IFC Films

We challenged ourselves by asking: What have we not seen before? What would be more difficult than you think to pull off on a technical level in terms of creating realistic prosthetics and filming them? I’m less inspired by nightmares than I am by the challenge of showing something that’s never been seen before. There are so many horror films now, and to stand out, you have to have some great deaths. At the very least, we need to have kills that people will be talking about.

Well, mission accomplished on that front. You can’t just make a successful horror movie nowadays without there being the inevitable sequel. If this movie is a success, which I’m sure it will be, what would you like to see in In a Violent Nature 2 or 3? Are we going to see Johnny Takes Manhattan?

If there is a sequel, I hope that it will continue experimenting with formal aspects of the genre in the same way that I feel In a Violent Nature was a formal experiment in slasher films. Insofar as like what’s going to happen in the story or who will appear? I don’t really know. But I know it’s going to be another kind of mash-up of aesthetics, something that is aesthetically different from the rest, if it ever happens.

In a Violent Nature is currently playing in movie theaters.

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Jason Struss
Section Editor, Entertainment
Jason is a writer, editor, and pop culture enthusiast whose love for cinema, television, and cheap comic books has led him to…
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