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“He’s an Articulation of the Environment, an Unforgiving Force of Nature” | Chris Nash, In A Violent Nature

A masked man armed with an obscured weapon stands against a forested backdrop.A still from In A Violent Nature. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Films are made of and from places: the locations they are filmed in, the settings they are meant to evoke, the geographies where they are imagined and worked on. What place tells its own story about your film, whether a particularly challenging location that required production ingenuity or a map reference that inspired you personally, politically or creatively?

In A Violent Nature is a slasher-in-the-woods horror film, but told from the perspective of Johnny instead of the cannon fodder in his way. The setting of In A Violent Nature was based on the area of Northern Ontario where I was raised, along the Huron and Superior shores of the Great Lakes Forest region of Northern Ontario. The forestry and mining industry have a deep history in this area of a Ontario, and this history—a direct product of landscape itself—wove itself into the origin of our film’s main character, the undead slasher “Johnny.”

The deep wilderness of Northern Ontario is breathtaking in its isolated beauty, but if you’ve ever been lost in these woods (or, even if you simply get turned around for a few minutes), it can strike an immediate fear in your soul that goes right up the spine to your ancient lizard brain. It’s palpable. Everywhere you look—the beauty you were admiring only moments ago—is suddenly veiled in a threatening uncertainty. It was our intention that Johnny was a representation of this beautiful threat.

It was always a priority while shooting that wherever we were filming the locations looked pretty. We wanted these gorgeous settings to live in direct contrast to the horror and violence that Johnny was dispensing on screen—planting the seed that Johnny isn’t behaving in opposition to the environment. He’s an articulation of the environment, an unforgiving force of nature.

Growing up in this area, I’ve always had an appreciation and reverence for the wilderness. Being blessed with the ability to return to my old stomping grounds to shoot In A Violent Nature made me realize how much I missed the area and prompted me to move home after living in Toronto for 20 years.

See all responses to our annual Sundance Question here.

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