The opening of Robert Olsen and Dan Berk’s (The Stakelander) new film, Villains, sets the tone for the events to come. Amateur thieves Mickey (Bill Skarsgard, IT) and Jules (Maika Monroe, It Follows) rob a gas station wearing pigeon and unicorn masks, respectively. As they try to rob the register, they realize it’s digital and neither know how to open it. They fumble with what to do and finally scan an item to get the drawer open. They cheer, declare how smart the other is, and run out with the cash. This brief scene establishes the outlandish nature of the film, the quirky personalities of our protagonists, and a darkly comic approach to violence.
Mickey and Jules are young, in love, and heading to Florida to open a seashell shop. The gas station robbery was the final step to getting them enough cash to kickstart their dreams. However, in an act of delicious irony, their getaway car runs out of gas. After Jules performs “car wash” for Mickey, a shockingly innocent act where she brushes her long hair on his face to calm him down, they come up with a plan. They’ll go to the nearest house, steal a car, and get the hell out of dodge. Easy, right?
Nope, not so easy, because as Mickey and Jules search the house for the car keys, they discover a young girl chained up in the basement. Their plans to get to Florida have gotten a little more complicated. They discover the house belongs to two deranged humans who seem to live in another era: George (Jeffery Donovan, Burn Notice) and Gloria (Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer). Their sickly sweet Southern accents hide their heinous intentions. What ensues is a struggle for survival and a need to escape the clutches of two people on the edge of madness.
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“Every movement, piece of dialogue, and act of violence are comically exaggerated to create a film that plays with the home invasion genre”
Everything about Villains is taken to its extreme. Every movement, piece of dialogue, and act of violence are comically exaggerated to create a film that plays with the home invasion genre. It helps that the setting makes Villains feels like it exists out of time or space, as if Mickey and Jules entered a new plane of existence as they walked through that door. George and Gloria’s home feels as if it was ripped out of a catalog from both the 1960s and the 1980s. The walls are decked in retro shades of orange, geometric patterns cover every surface, there is a personal gym modeled after a Jazzercise studio, and Gloria is the model of a perfect 1960s housewife. Everything is in its place, but something feels incredibly wrong.
Each performance in Villains is stunning, though Monroe and Sedgwick steal the show. Skarsgard and Monroe are young and desperate, vibrating with nervous energy that isn’t helped by the cocaine. They’re ready to start a new life and are a more incompetent version of Bonnie and Clyde. Skarsgard’s performance is twitchy, yet endearing; his large eyes, no longer covered with the horrifying Pennywise makeup, dart around in attempts to form yet another plan. Monroe, in contrast, tries to encourage him while also proving her own strength, particularly when her tongue ring gets ripped out.
On the other side, there is Donovan and Sedgwick as the deranged couple with too-wide smiles. Donovan’s words flow out of his mouth like molasses, strangely soothing despite his threats of violence. His carefully gelled hair never out of place, his ascot is perfectly tied, and he is willing to do anything to protect his precious Gloria. Sedgwick portrays a broken woman whose anger is on the precipice of boiling over. Her big smiles can’t cover her sadness and frustration that she can’t have children. She is unhinged, a product of the societal expectations of women. Sedgwick portrays her desperation with such skill that you both empathize and fear Gloria. I’d watch a whole movie about her.
“..when these couples collide, all hell breaks loose as their dreams are shattered by the other.”
Underneath the dark comedy and ridiculous situation, Villains is a film about two desperate couples trying to keep it together. Mickey and Jules want to start fresh in Florida. George and Gloria want children and complete the image of the perfect family. So when these couples collide, all hell breaks loose as their dreams are shattered by the other. Villains packs a strangely emotional punch at its end, which feels out of place for a film that relies so heavily on the outrageous. This combination of over-the-top comedy and unexpected emotional impact isn’t always effective, but still work together to create a unique take on the home invasion movie. Come for the premise, stay for the phenomenal performances in Olsen and Berk’s Villains.
Villains hits theatres September 20th, and screened as part of the 2019 North Bend Film Festival on August 18. Check out our full coverage of the festival HERE and let us know if you’re excited to see Villains on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!