Wicked Good Time: CUFF horror comedy Vicious Fun Canadian director Cody Calahan’s love letter to ’80s films

Of course he knows. How could he not know?

You don’t have a 100 per cent Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes and not know.

“Yeah, yeah,” says Canadian director Cody Calahan about about his wicked good feature Vicious Fun and its wicked good ratings and reception on the horror film circuit. “It’s pretty shocking so far. It’s just amazing people are responding to it the way you hoped.”

Granted, word and the film itself are just getting out there — including for an upcoming online run during the Calgary Underground Film Festival — but initial love is much and much deserved.

The film is a deliciously gory, hilarious and tense tale about a smug prick of horror film reviewer —pre-blogger, but total blogger — named Joel (played simperingly, smarmingly and exceptionally by actor Evan Marsh) who finds himself locked in a restaurant with a serial killer support group.

Hilarity and gruesome killings ensue.

It’s really a treat of a film, one that offers the perfect mix of wink and “what the fuck?”, with the film set in the action, horror, comic flick’s heyday. Well, for some. Filmmaker included.

The tone, the look, the dialogue, the fashion, it’s all expertly crafted into a genuine and lovingly delivered, intestine-gutting romp from a bygone era. And it’s almost enough to make you nostalgic for the idea of mass murderers. Guy in hockey mask. Creepy clown. Where we are now seems so much darker than those ’80s halcyon days of serial killers. Which is one of the reasons to go back.

“It’s a love letter,” says Calahan of Vicious Fun.

“It’s like a visual mashup of a lot of the films that I grew up on and, obviously, the writer grew up on,” he says about collaborator James Villeneuve

“We kind of knew we wanted to homage stuff as much as we could without hitting a nail on the head…

“It feels like a love letter to the movies of the ’80s that I grew up on.”

It was the story itself that came to him first — or rather the title. Calahan had written it down while working on another project, also jotting down the phrase “fun horror movie,” with him admitting the idea formed slowly and gradually into the popcorn chomper it is. 

It wasn’t until he was working with the story editors, he says, did they start thinking of the film in terms of throwback horror-comedy, with the idea of cellphones pushing things into a logistical conversation that eventually took them to the ’80s world.

“Eventually it became obvious, like, ‘We want to homage all of these movies, why not just set it at a time when these movies thrived.”

It also formed fuller partly due to the later injection of the excellent ensemble of players who make up the film’s fantastic cast — from Joel, to badass heroine (Carrie) Amber Goldfarb and the cadre of killers which includes notable but not costar-dwarfing character actors such as David Koechner (Anchorman, The Office) and Aril Millen (Orphan Black), who chews the scenery as if channeling Christian Bale in similar ’80s homage American Psycho.

Stil, Joel is the way into the film, and the un-hero who recalls those days when, guys named Joel (try not thinking Risky Business every time you hear his name) eventually, maybe, won out.

“He kind of mirrors a lot of the goofy nerds of the ’80s and obviously his wardrobe is a nod to Marty McFly,” says Callahan of the vested lamentably, likeable everyidiotman Joel.

And while Calahan is more than happy to offer one or two hints or confirm other easter eggs for ’80s lovers, he also marvels at the swing and misses, loves the fact that people are imposing their own homages on the production — sometimes ones that are remarkably diverse.

Take, for example, one of the main set pieces and action sequences, which is in a supposedly well-fortified police house. You say John Carpenter; I say James Cameron.

“It’s interesting too, “ he agrees, “because some people are are like … ‘The other day, somebody was like, ‘Oh, obviously you’re referencing this. Obviously the police station is a reference to Assault on Precinct 13,’ and you just said Terminator, so it’s just great that by homaging them all, everybody pulls out whatever movie was significant to them. So that’s been fun to hear.

He continues. “And there’s definitely been times when somebody is like, ‘Oh, are you homaging this, and me and the writer are like, ‘Well, we are now.’ ”