So many movies come down to the simple notion of good vs evil. The just conquering the unjust. But moviegoers, rightfully so, have always had something of an obsession with evildoers. Villains doesn't necessarily present us with a traditional notion of good. Instead, it presents us with a group of bad men and women, of varying degrees, in an irreverent and twistedly comedic scenario, that makes for a highly amusing and very surprising fall flick. It's aided dramatically by Bill Skarsgard, who toplines a perfectly cast, small ensemble that elevates this movie greatly.
Villains centers on a pair of small-time crooks, Mickey (Bill Skarsgård) and Jules (Maika Monroe). These two lovers are on the run, headed southbound for a fresh start. Unfortunately, things get rather tricky when, thanks to some poor planning, their car dies shortly after they robbed a convenience store. Out of options, they decide to break into a nearby house looking for a new car to get them back on their way. The two unwittingly stumble upon a dark secret and a pair of homeowners who seem sweet on the surface but will do anything to keep this secret from getting out.
Directors Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, who also penned the screenplay, crafted a simple, yet deceptively layered tale here. The premise allows for maximum entertainment factor, even though there is a whole lot of darkness at its heart. In spite of that, Villains is shockingly fun. The humor is dark, no doubt, but hilarious nonetheless. Crime is rarely this amusing in cinema.
The not-so-secret weapon of this movie is the ensemble. This is truly dynamite casting across the board. Bill Skarsgard is known as Pennywise from IT, but he proves here that he can deliver a totally different kind of character, without any creepy makeup, just as effectively. Pardon the pun, but Skarsgard definitely has that IT factor. He's joined by the perfectly cast Maika Monroe, who horror fans will recognize from It Follows. The two have tremendous chemistry with one another and it helps the movie become wildly engaging from the very first moments, up through the final frames. On the other side of the fence, we've got Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick. Both of these performers have been in the business for years and both of them are at the absolute top of their game here, doing something wholly unique and certainly challenging. The group, all together, is the reason this movie works as well as it does.
Villains doesn't really have a "good guy" to root for. It plays on the idea that evil isn't black and white. We like to like the villain. We want Luke Skywalker to succeed, but we love to see Darth Vader do his thing. Sure, John McClane should win. He's earned it, but damned if we don't love Hans Gruber. But what happens when it's Darth Vader vs Hans Gruber? Who do we root for then? It's perhaps a ridiculous example, though the main point stands. Evil vs evil leads us to a grey area where it's hard to know what to root for. Must there be sympathy for the lesser of two devils? As an audience member, it's a fun place to be. The notion of, "there's always a bigger fish," even in seedy, criminal situations.
This flick is unflinchingly uncomfortable at times. It's a weird little movie in the best of ways. Sure, that's not for everyone, but those who it is for should get a real kick out of it. It does get a little lost in the middle, with the momentum slowing down a touch compared to the rocket-like start. Much like a slingshot, the beginning of the ride is a little better than the end. It's such a movie. In that, it's the one in a million, totally bizarre, unrealistic, but not altogether impossible, situation we could only ever experience in a movie. This is a twisted, darkly comedic little treat. Villains arrives in theaters on September 20 from Gunpowder and Sky.