A nonstop thrill ride with blood and rage to spare, For The Sake of Vicious will remind you what makes genre films so great.

Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen have done the impossible. With virtually no budget, extremely tight quarters, and a fantastic lead cast, the writing-directing team has delivered the best home invasion thriller in years. For The Sake of Vicious is every genre fan’s dream, a claustrophobic battle against evil ripe with high stakes and an even higher body count. It’s the bloodbath of the year, and it runs under 90-minutes in length.

Romina (Lora Burke) is an innocent nurse whose looking forward to spending Halloween with her son. Those plans are ruined when she returns from work to the discovery of a maniac (Nick Smyth) and the man (Colin Paradine) he’s holding captive in her apartment. Unable to flee, she bears witness to a power struggle between two men she cannot trust as the tension between them slowly boils over, and that’s before a gang of masked intruders come knocking on her door with violence on their minds.

There is a wicked sense of joy that arises from the way Vicious plays with relationship dynamics. Romina wants nothing to do with the violence unfolding in her kitchen, but she cannot help becoming a part of it. Similarly, as evildoers surround the house, each lead must set aside their grievances to survive. The script does an excellent job of making it clear none of these decisions arise quickly, nor does it allow for the chaos of a moment to undo the deep-seated mistrust that lies at the center of the story.

All of this only works because of the cast. Burke’s turn as Romina conveys heart and concern in equal measure. She longs to bring understanding to the scenario unfolding in her home, but not to such an extent that she’s willing to put herself in harm’s way. That is until she’s left with no other options and must wield a hammer and other home appliances to stay alive.

Eveneshen wrote the screenplay for Vicious from a story by Carrer, which takes cues from similar genre fare such as You’re Next, Kidnapped, and The Strangers. The action comes fast and often, allowing for an overwhelming sense of dread to weigh heavily on the viewers’ minds. The film’s quick pacing adds an extra touch of urgency to every decision, which is then emphasized by a thick, pulsating score from Foxgrndr.

Cinematographer Alex Tong doesn’t have much experience with feature films, but their keen style adds a cinematic touch that makes the most of the production’s meager budget. Whether it’s capturing the tension and frantic energy of a home invasion fought through a two-story house with wood paneling on the walls or making simple transitional sequences feel essential to the narrative, his craftsmanship elevates every beat.

With a different cast boasting slightly more star power, For the Sake of Vicious would easily be a mainstream horror film shown on thousands of screens worldwide. The moviegoers that see it will no doubt understand its importance, and a remake in other countries seems inevitable. For now, however, the cast and crew can rest easy knowing they’ve made an unforgettable thrill ride that’s as bold as it is brutal.

This review is part of Substream Magazine’s Fantasia Fest 2020 coverage. Stay tune for additional reviews and features.