STARRING: BILL SKARSGARD; MAIKA MONROE; JEFFREY DONOVAN; KYRA SEDGWICK
DIRECTED BY: DAN BERK; ROBERT OLSEN
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
What if Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? had been turned into a conversation piece with bloody results for the guests? That's what I got out of Dan Berk & Robert Olsen's dark comedy Villains. It's not a flawless film, but it has a lot of great going on, with Bill Skarsgard scraping his Pennywise makeup off, Maika Monroe reminding us why she's awesome, and Jeffrey Donovan & Kyra Sedgwick playing one messed up couple. I had a whole lot of fun watching Villains, a movie about criminals getting caught up in the crimes of other criminals. It makes for a mixture of dark comedy and sinister plotting in a surprise hit for 2019.
The first scene involves Mickey (Skarsgard) and Jules (Maika Monroe), robbing a gas station, wearing pathetic rubber pigeon masks, and clearly not knowing how to do the whole armed robbery thing. They get away, but ironically, their car runs out of gas only a few miles down the road, leaving them with the quick thinking of where to go next. They run to a house up the road, break in, rummage through the place, only to find a younger girl chained in the basement. It's a case of going into the wrong house, owned by George (Jeffrey Donavan) and Gloria (Kyra Sedgwick completely hamming it up), a couple that wanted a child so badly, they decide to steal one for their own. The tables turn a bit, where Mickey and Jules are just petty thieves and must now be the heroes.
The premise of Villains might be a bit dark, but it helps that writers/directors Berk & Olsen bounce the couples off one another. The setting of the house creates various uncomfortable and painful scenarios. With Mickey and Jules handcuffed to a pole in the basement, they are stuck with the task of tearing Jules' tongue ring out of her mouth of pick the lock. The writing is often sharp, funny, and filled with gut punching scenarios, making each scene more difficult than the last. And then you have Donavan and Sedgwick's characters, dressed in cold, Leave it to Beaver-style outfits, with stone cold smirks on their faces. They see nothing wrong with kidnapping people as your guests, especially when you're feeding them a healthy stew...right?
There is a style to Villains that is reminiscent of Tim Burton's flare for pointing out the dark side of families in suburbia. There is also a bit of a reminder of Fede Alvarez's hit Don't Breathe, where it becomes a survival for everyone in the home, because at the end, in a movie like this there is not a single character to root for. That's typically the point of this type of narrative, sending people, that have done bad things, into a scenario where they must find redemption for themselves. By the end of Villains you're not only rooting for Mickey and Jules, you almost wish to get in the car with them and see where their adventures take them.
If there are any negatives about Villains, I would say it is the ending, which left me feeling a bit cold, when it could have ended perfectly five minutes earlier. That still does not erase all the good that happens in this movie. It's genuinely a lot of fun and I keep going back to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, wondering if maybe someday a movie like Villains could be turned into a dark, twisted show for the broadway stage? Wouldn't that be a sight to see? It could be Sweeney Todd for the true horror fans. It's the kind of story where you're cheering for the Villains.
Written by: Leo Brady