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Unveiling the Monster: Inside IN A VIOLENT NATURE with Stars Ry Barrett and Andrea Pavlovic

Johnny walks through the woods
Ry Barrett as "Johnny" in Chris Nash's IN A VIOLENT NATURE | Courtesy of Pierce Derks. An IFC Films & Shudder Release

By Dolores Quintana

In IN A VIOLENT NATURE, when a locket is removed from a collapsed fire tower in the woods that entombs the rotting corpse of Johnny, a vengeful spirit spurred on by a horrific 60-year-old crime, his body is resurrected and becomes hellbent on retrieving it. The undead golem hones in on the group of vacationing teens responsible for the theft and proceeds to methodically slaughter them one by one in his mission to get it back - along with anyone in his way.

For the release of IN A VIOLENT NATURE, Creepy Kingdom's Dolores Quintana spoke with actors Ry Barrett ("Johnny") and Andrea Pavolvic ("Kris"). During the interview, they discussed everything from their unique experience filming the movie to what makes this ambient slasher a chilling standout.

What were your experiences like filming IN A VIOLENT NATURE? Ry, you've worked in the genre before, but have you, Andrea?

Andrea Pavolvic: I think this is my first horror movie. I've done grittier projects before, but this was my first proper horror film. It was so cool to work on something very different. Since it's from the perspective of Ry’s character, it was so much fun to play with, not always having the camera right in front of your face. I think that that's an aspect of it that was so interesting. Having it be a presence as if it was Ry out in the woods but not right there led to some cool moments you don't typically get in film or this genre. 

Ry Barrett: Having done a handful of horror projects and having played some slasher roles in the past, it was very different filming IN A VIOLENT NATURE because it was a complete flip of the script. You get to see all this stuff that you don't see in every other kind of formula of the genre, except for a couple of examples like Maniac and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. They are somewhat similar but they're also very different from this at the same time. It was fun to be a part of something built into this genre, and it is exactly what it should be. But then, on the flip side, you get to see behind the scenes what's happening in that. 

Most of the time, the perspective is with Johnny and then flips over to different perspectives, which makes the film scary in a different way. At Sundance, the film was called an "ambient slasher," where many scares are connected to the sound design. For you, Andrea, what were you most concerned about with your character in this type of film?

Andrea Pavlovic: I was chatting with our editor, Alex Jacobs, about that and saying how it's so cool for such a big part of the film since it is from Johnny's perspective; there’s that looming presence you follow. Then, all of a sudden, when it shifts, it's like he's still there, and the camera shows that fear differently. I told the editor how interesting it is to have a film where the soundscape of the world makes up the sound design of the film because we have no music in it. It makes it just that much creepier. It feels like you're really in the world of these characters, and you are suddenly just turning and feeling Johnny all around you. 

Ry, your face is rarely seen in the film. I think it's a terrific acting feat to convey that sense of menace without showing it on your face. People might not understand what it takes to make yourself so scary when you're denied facial expression; it's just the feeling coming out of you.

Ry Barrett: I think you might see me as a ranger for a second in a photo. But other than that, even when you see Johnny, there are layers of latex, great makeup, and special effects. It’s a challenge when you can't verbally express it and facially express it when it all has to be physical. You must make up a list of rules to get that all across. We had some meetings ahead of time and practiced some movements for Johnny and different speeds of how and why he would walk a certain way and what he would do. I tried to add that when he goes into his kind of violent mode, he turns into a wild animal. It’s just complete rage, and then it's gone. Just like an animal attack. I did watch some bear attack videos before going in. I forgot about that but I remembered that I did watch some for a specific scene that takes place in the film. It’s about trying to think about these ideas, staying consistent with them, and hoping they show through.  

A group of friends take a photo in front of a fire
Chris Nash's IN A VIOLENT NATURE | Courtesy of Pierce Derks. An IFC Films & Shudder Release

I'm here to tell you that you gave an incredible performance. In my opinion, it's up there with some of the great horror film performances.

Ry Barrett: Thank you very much. I appreciate it when you're in all that; you hope people will notice.

Andrea, your character, Kris, is present for at least one or two of the most violent murders. What was it like to watch that happen? 

Andrea Pavlovic: It was actually terrifying. Our prosthetics and special effects team were so incredibly talented at what they did, which made my job easier. It looked real, even seeing Johnny and some of the kills in person. It just made my job that much easier, quite honestly. But it was gnarly. It was so gnarly to witness those kills—the ones that I was there for in person. 

I wanted to ask you, Andrea, about your character, Kris. She's a strong character and doesn't let people roll over her. All the female characters are not typical of the genre. What went into creating your character?

Andrea Pavlovic: Oh, I love that, and thank you for saying that. It's so true, and I think there is so much power and strength to the women in this film. When we were creating it, Chris Nash, the director, was open to collaboration. He said let's bring as much of you guys in it as possible. He wasn't tied specifically to what was written on the page. He's very open to that collaboration in that sense, which was so freeing to hear as an actor. 

I think we were so aware of the tropes going into it, and he gave us this agency just by dictating out loud: don't feel tied to these specific tropes, in that sense. We'll see it because the audience is smart; they know the tropes, but bring your all to it. Just do you. So that was very freeing to hear. 

The film has many comedic aspects, but most people gravitate toward Johnny's menacing side. In the film, Johnny has a moment of vulnerability, indicating he's more than a menace.

Ry Barrett: You get to see that moment, and that's kind of really the only moment that you see, other than when he's walking through the woods in this serene space listening to nature. There are those calm moments with him. When you do have that empathetic moment with Johnny right after he does something terrible, he continues to keep doing terrible things after that.

I told Chris, that's kind of [Johnny's] Frankenstein's monster moment, but the monster also throws the little girl into the lake. It's the same kind of thing. But I'd say Johnny is a lot less empathetic than the Monster because he comes from the ground and causes terror. There are comedic moments in it, too, and many of them are on purpose to see exactly how far it goes with certain things or the timing. It's great when you hear the laughter at the right spots.

To wrap things up, what's next for you both now that IN A VIOLENT NATURE is out in the world?

Andrea Pavlovic: I've been working on some stuff that will be coming up that's very exciting. I've been working on the remake of "Cruel Intentions" as a television series. I've been working on that and have some other stuff coming up. So stay tuned. 

Ry Barrett: I have a couple of releases coming out any time now. One's called Chamber of Terror, which was playing in festivals a few years ago, but it will finally be streaming and have a hard copy release. Cult Hero is another one that just came out recently. I think it's more widely available in the States, probably on streaming. The same company I did that with has The Hyperborean, which is about to come out. We just finished touring with that for festivals, and we're about to shoot a new one with a great new team involved. It's another horror comedy called Turn It Up. They just announced the cast for that. 

IN A VIOLENT NATURE is now exclusively in theaters.


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