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'Villains' is a Minor Work in the Horror-Adjacent Sphere 

click to enlarge villains-sxsw-maika-monroe-bill-skarsgard.jpg

Villains, a dark home- invasion comedy starring Bill Skarsgård, Maika Monroe, Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgewick opens Friday at the Capitol Theatre. The squeamish will be relieved to note that unlike many of its torture-porn forebears, the film features only one moment of serious gore and only one gross-out scene. (And even that comes with a countdown to give you ample time to shield your eyes.)

It's admittedly a minor work in the horror-adjacent sphere, with a smattering of plot holes that need not be examined too closely. It sure looked like fun for Donovan (TV's Burn Notice) and Sedgewick (TV's The Closer) who got to perform the hell out of their roles as genteel Southern psychos — certainly more fun than for Skarsgård (lately Pennywise in IT: Chapter 2) and Monroe (of It Follows fame), who merely played earnest, lovestruck young crooks on the lamb.

Mickey and Jules run out of gas in a wooded suburb shortly after a sloppy gas-station robbery and are alarmed to discover a young girl chained up in the basement of the home they break into, hunting for car keys. When residents George and Gloria arrive home, negotiations ensue. George invites Mickey and Jules to take their car and promises not to report it to the police if they forget about the girl downstairs. Mickey reminds George that he's the one with the gun and guesses that George wouldn't want to get the police involved anyway. The girl's coming with them.

George and Gloria promptly get the upper hand. And as their derangements surface, Mickey and Jules must find creative ways to exploit their captors and escape.

The set decoration (George and Gloria's mid-century furnishings, in particular) and the credits (flamboyant pink) both suggest that the filmmakers wanted to produce a bold and stylized affair. And while moments with Donovan and Sedgewick are outlandish and sometimes fun, substantial portions of Villains are just annoying. One feels zero sympathy for Mickey and Jules, who are criminals in an unsexy, unmotivated way — they want to go to Florida, I guess? And throwaway moments — Jules tosses a bowl of cereal over her shoulder, for example, when she finds it's stale — create a cartoonish effect that prohibits taking the events even remotely seriously.

Now Playing

Villains is not showing in any theaters in the area.

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