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  • Vicious Kind, The | Review

    By | November 16, 2009


    Director: Lee Toland Krieger

    Writer(s): Lee Toland Krieger

    Starring: Brittany Snow, Adam Scott, J.K. Simmons, Alex Frost

    The Vicious Kind finds the men of the Sinclaire family at odds. Caleb (Adam Scott) is a highly volatile personality who hates and distrusts all women (having just been dumped by his girlfriend). Peter (Alex Frost), the younger Sinclaire brother, is the complete opposite of Caleb – he is meek, gentle, kind and loving.

    The film starts with Caleb driving Peter to their childhood home (in rural Connecticut) from college for Thanksgiving break (because train service is shut down due to a terrorist threat); but before going home they first have to pick-up Caleb’s college girlfriend, Emma (Brittany Snow donning jet black hair), from her parents’ house (I’m still confused why Emma was at her parents’ house, rather than on campus if she went to school with Peter).

    Not only is Emma of the gender that Caleb dislikes and distrusts (and has the tendency to be verbally abusive to – Emma is no exception), but she also bears an uncanny resemblance to the ex-girlfriend that completely destroyed Caleb’s personality by dumping him. This adds a significant amount of tension during the drive home – further fueled by the threesome being scrunched-together in the front seat of Caleb’s pick-up truck…and the stick shift conveniently positioned between Emma’s thighs.

    Caleb and their father, Donald (J.K. Simmons), have not spoken for several years (even though they live within 2 miles of each other); so Caleb drops Peter and Emma off at the end of the driveway and speeds away. Even this early on we sense that Emma is concerned about the situation she finds herself in.

    Donald is as smitten with the dark angel, the black-haired Emma, as everyone else is (we sense that Caleb is enamored with Emma as well, though he has a funny way of showing it). It is also worth noting that Peter and Caleb’s mother died about 10 years prior – and the events surrounding her death is what put the family on edge.

    Emma keeps running into Caleb, and each encounter bursts with tension. Caleb has not been sleeping, so his personality becomes more and more manic as the film progresses. Caleb spirals out of control, as Emma and Peter attempt to navigate the early stages of their relationship and as Donald attempts to keep his family together.

    Caleb’s character controls the film, and thus the tone of The Vicious Kind is incredibly…well…uncomfortably vicious. There is very little good that happens in the film. We know Peter is a good person, but only because he is apparently very meek and naïve (and a virgin). We are forced to doubt Emma’s goodness because some of Caleb’s arguments about her actually make sense (she cheated on her last boyfriend to be with Peter – not always a good sign of a trustworthy mate). Donald just seems a little off – as though he is hiding some deep dark secret.

    The level of the tension throughout The Vicious Kind is so high at times, that it is not hard to suspect that the film is going to erupt into a violent bloodbath. Though the tone was unsettling to say the least, it was extremely effective – for which writer-director Lee Toland Krieger deserves much credit.

    I enjoyed the performances in The Vicious Kind – especially Scott, Snow and Simmons. But there one thing that keeps The Vicious Kind from being a great film – and unfortunately it is the conclusion. The path of Caleb and Emma’s relationship is not only inconsistent with both the characters’ personalities, but it seems insulting to women.

    Rating: 7/10

    Topics: Film Reviews | 2 Comments »

    • Bhakti

      I have to disagree with your assessment of Caleb’s character. He was not only “masogynistic” in his rants to Peter because he hates all women (namely because, as you say, Caleb’s girlfriend betrayed him by cheating on him), but you’re also missing the irony that ***SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM YET*** Caleb knows that his mother didn’t cheat, but his father did. So, the irony is that Caleb’s girlfriend DID betray him and break his heart, but his mother DIDN’T betray his father–yet Caleb has to keep that lie going to protect Peter from learning the truth. You see, it’s almost as if Caleb, having to keep his father’s secret for so long, became the one who WAS ultimately cheated on (I suppose THAT is the irony). I don’t believe that Caleb is vicious…I believe his father was actually the “vicious kind”. I didn’t get the feeling that Caleb actually hated women and thinks that they are all whores (except during the first scene in the diner). After getting to know him, I sensed he was “damaged” in some way; definately hurting. Personally, I don’t like masogynistic characters (as in Neil Labute’s early works, for example). I didn’t find Krieger’s ‘Caleb’ character to be brutally masogynistic: crazy & bi-polar at times? yes. I saw a character who was suffering a childhood trauma that came to the fore when his girlfriend cheated on him. This act of betrayal forced him to take a look at his familial relationships and his past. And I don’t say that in hindsight.
      The fact that he sticks up for the woman in the bar–that proved that he was sympathetic towards woman and didn’t have tolerance for men who treat women like “meat”.
      This is just my two cents. I plan on writing a full review on my sight, as this is one of my favorite films in a long time.
      I do agree with you that the ending…I didn’t think Caleb would do “that” to his brother.
      What do you think about my point of view and opinion?

    • Bhakti

      PS I am female. I think that’s worth mentioning regarding my point of view on Caleb’s character and take on women.
      I like your blog…I posted my previous comment just to give my point of view on the movie–for discussion’s sake. We all have our own histories that help us inform our take on different film’s and characters.
      Also, I have a question: at the end of the film ****SPOILER ALERT!!!!*****
      when Caleb and you know who have sex…he says to her, “I kind of got the feeling this might have been your first time (paraphrasing)” and she tears up–as if to say ‘yes’. What’s your take on this scene? Was she saying that she never did it before? Because she just did it with Peter. Or was she saying that she just did it for the first time with Peter? I watched this twice…I’m confused about that.