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North Bend Film Fest 2019: ‘Villains’ Review – A Home Invasion Gone South

From the get-go, Dan Berk and Robert Olsen’s Villains, which received its Pacific Northwest Premiere at North Bend Film Festival, appeared equally as full of life and charm. Bill Skarsgård and Maika Monroe star as Mickey and Jules, two lovers on the run, matching up to an interpretation of Bonnie and Clyde. They are robbing stores for money to make a sweet retreat to Florida, and while they are not exactly professional, there is no denying their chemistry and commitment for one another. However, their amateur execution and being fuelled by drugs does not help their situation. Even though they have just robbed a gas station, partway through their getaway, they come to a standstill because their car dies. With nowhere to run or hide, Mickey and Jules have no option but to break into the first house they find to take a car, but of course, it could not be that easy. Instead, they stumble upon an ominous secret kept by the homeowners, Gloria (Kyra Sedgwick) and George, (Jeffrey Donovan) but their cool, composed, personas would never let you know that they were full of madness.

It is not hard to identify that Skarsgård and Monroe are the makings of Villains. They provide the film with its unique quirks that is brought out by the pairs unorganized nature, in part with how they talk to one another and the actions that they take. Maybe it is the pressure they are faced with, maybe it is the drugs or adrenaline, but one thing is apparent: they are able to easily come across as a pair of loveable rogues. This characteristic of the couple can be best credited towards the use of dark humor in the film that effectively provides a presence of comedy. Mickey and Jules’ opening interactions are enough to make Villains feel like an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia with young lovers on a rampage twist, as they threaten a defenseless child and the store clerk flat out faints on them. While the two appear like they would not possess the best composure if things took a turn for the worst in this scenario, we soon see what happens when things do turn south for the couple.

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Credit: ALTER / Gunpowder & Sky

The moment Mickey and Jules break into Gloria and George’s home, it is not hard to tell that something is not right. First of all, they keep a bowl of plastic fruit in their kitchen, and second of all, their home is frozen in time with its décor and style. They are living out an all American dream that pays its tribute to the 50s, and it gets progressively worse once they discover what the false pretenses homeowners are hiding in their basement. But, before Mickey and Jules even cross paths with Gloria and George, there is one big clue shown to us and unbeknown to Mickey and Jules that alludes a sense of dread as the type of people that Gloria and George really are becomes made clear. From here on, it would be difficult to see the mediocre villains escape the real ones.

Once the two couples meet Villains quickly becomes a battle of negotiations and smarts, as George and Gloria are not so keen to see their secret go. No compromises can be produced and the manipulations are teeming. Due to Mickey having the power of holding a gun, himself and Jules are able to return back to the basement with Gloria and George under their thumb, or seemingly so, as this is where things take a turn for the worse.

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Credit: ALTER / Gunpowder & Sky

The one, easily pointable flaw of Villains is that it can struggle to keep up with the momentum it provides you with at the start. Most of the fun disappears after the first hour. Though its pacing does have moments where it cools down to plays at a steady pace, it is still crazy but could have gone crazier. Villains utilize a single location to full effect, shifting from perversion to delusion while keeping its comedy present in a tactful, ongoing battlefield. The high levels of risk and dramatic qualities inside of Villains are also what provide Skarsgård and Monroe with room for their performances, and the backstories for Gloria and George let Sedgwick and Donovan do the same. The film can easily be enjoyed by an array of audiences and will no doubt grab the attention of most even if some parts can be predictable.

★★

Villains opens in theatres nationwide on September 20th, 2019.

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