The cynic inside me wonders if writer/director Lee Toland Krieger employed some type of Sundance Festival guide book to help him assemble "The Vicious Kind." We're talking emotional turmoil, acoustic soundtrack, chilly small-town locations, sexual impropriety, scruffy beards, masturbation, daddy issues, cigarettes, dyed hair, raccoon eyes, and implausibly shrugged-off acts of violence. All that seems to be missing is an Iraq war veteran character and a cameo from Mark Duplass. The reality of "The Vicious Kind" is far less interesting, with the film lumbering around in monotonous pain, offering more affectation than illumination.
Disturbed in ways that aren't immediatley clear, Caleb (Adam Scott, "Step Brothers") has volunteered to drive his kid brother Peter (Alex Frost) and new girlfriend Emma (Brittany Snow) from college to the family home in rural Virginia. Along the way, Caleb reveals his distaste for women, his father Donald (J.K. Simmons), and for Emma, who he thinks is going to screw over his delicate younger sibling. Working out serious emotional issues in sarcastic, wrathful ways, Caleb begins to view Emma as a vessel to calm his toxic heart, while the young, perplexed visitor takes a shine to Caleb's volatile fixation and sporadic flashes of passion.
"The Vicious Kind" is a paint-by-numbers feature film that enjoys the sway of suffering. It's a dreary motion picture with little to say on matters of the broken heart, preferring to take a gut-churning route of silence and stares to convey necessary levels of longing. It seems Krieger is more comforted by cliché than curious, serving up platefuls of depression as a broken family is forced back together thanks to a girl with her own hidden insecurities and perversions.
The performances are the star of the show, and every actor is handed a neatly arranged satchel of neuroses and performance tics. Truthfully, it's all about Adam Scott, who's thankfully given a chance to stretch as the destroyed, chain-smoking antagonist, dealing with his feelings for Emma and his hatred for Donald, who represents a ground zero of emotional ruin to Caleb. Scott certainly plays up his established gift for smarm, perhaps too much at times, but the character's ferocity is easily identifiable, along with his preference for rowdy self-destruction. It's a satisfying performance in the long run, though often unbearable in the moment. I trust that's what Scott and Krieger were aiming for.
Following Caleb as he contemplates his awful actions makes up the majority of "The Vicious Kind," which lives up to its title as the lead character indulges in a series of vengeful and reckless acts to test the limits of his disease. The majority of his bile is reserved for Emma, who Caleb views as both his savior and worst enemy, unleashing his disgust on an innocent who ends up digging the violent spew, even indulging in a little self-love at the thought of it. It's damn near impossible to buy into this plot development without a sinister Cronenbergian angle to help balance the absurdity out, especially after a purposely vile scene where Caleb threatens Emma's life in a grocery store. Emotional void or not, the film never makes a decent case as to why Emma would find all the threats, voyeurism, and observable dementia so appealing outside of trite scripted circumstances.
Then again, Neil LaBute does executive produce here.
Colors act very strangely during the anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1 aspect ratio) presentation. Some scenes are rich with full, deep hues, while other moments of the film look unintentionally washed out and flavorless. Skintones remain comfortable, and wintry outdoor life retains a nice white punch. A few moments of pixelation arose during heated movement, and black levels aren't particularly strong, with an inky feel during dark interiors.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix for "The Vicious Kind" enjoys a few moments of evocative surround ambiance, permitting the sounds of small-town America (bowling alleys, diners, and shotguns) to have a buoyant life on the track. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced, with all exchanges and muttering easily understood. Soundtrack selections sound full, pushed up front to make a larger impression, building a pleasingly brittle mood of erratic temper.
English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.
In a case of classic DVD overkill, there are two feature-length audio commentaries here to consume, the first being a solo track with writer director Lee Toland Krieger. Imploring the listener to skip his track and move on to the next offering on the disc, Krieger sets a shameful tone right off the bat. The lack of self-confidence is earned, as the filmmaker tends to ramble while delivering the basic amount of production information and cinematic inspirations. Nothing here is particularly illuminating, but there's a decent amount of explanation for on-screen events.
The second commentary features Lee Toland Krieger and actor Adam Scott. If you've ever spied Scott in interviews, he's a rascally one, leaving this informational track more of an improvisational showcase than something worth devoting 90 minutes of your life to. There's some good stuff concerning frigid temperatures and hesitant actors, but the rest is played for laughs, with Scott and Krieger rolling out a tedious display of shtick that tend to blur the purpose of a DVD audio commentary.
"Behind the Scenes of 'The Vicious Kind'" (16:19) interviews the cast and Krieger, and the group goes about the business of influence and fawn, communicating how they came to be involved in the film and how the experience shaped their character. Some BTS footage is included, but it's not enough to salvage a droning bit of promotion.
"Deleted Scenes" (6:57) dig up very little in terms of revelation, but we do see additional interaction between Peter and Emma, who come off more as siblings in the finished film than lovers. They can be viewed with or without commentary from Lee Toland Krieger.
"Extended Scenes" (16:15) present an elongated version of the chatty opening scene, along with a few additional moments of horseplay and sensitivity from Donald. They can be viewed with or without commentary from Lee Toland Krieger.
A Theatrical Trailer has been included.
"The Vicious Kind" doesn't have much in the way of new corners to offer the domestic disturbance genre, resulting in a film greatly dedicated to misery, but offers no tangible reason why anyone outside of the filmmaker should care.