In A Violent Nature: Johnny’s Backstory, Explained: Why Did He Become A Killer?


Usually, serial killers in slasher horror movies are introduced with the vaguest of hints at their backstory or how they magically appear behind their victims without making a sound. The motivation behind their urge to kill people is shrouded in mystery because it’s that confusion that fuels the fear of being chased by one of these fictional maniacs. Only after they become pop culture icons are their modus operandi and the source of their power dissected via sequels, prequels, remakes, and reboots. In a Violent Nature takes a different approach in its attempt to mythologize Johnny by stripping away the mystique around his actions and constantly following him as he slowly approaches his victims and kills them. Is that interesting, or is it too simple to be enjoyable? Let’s find out.

Spoiler Alert

Why does Johnny kill?

Almost straight off the bat, it’s established that the main attraction of In a Violent Nature, Johnny, is a supernatural entity. Back in the ‘70s, a group of loggers working in White Pines were angry at Jack for selling them overpriced stuff, and they tortured his son, Johnny, to vent their frustration. One day, things went too far, and the loggers ended up killing Johnny by dropping him from a fire tower. They put a firefighter mask (something that he wears during his most recent killing spree too) on him and made it look like Johnny had accidentally killed himself due to the low visibility of the mask. When Jack confronted them, it led to a scuffle, and Jack died too. A few days later, the shredded bodies of the lumberjacks were found, and apparently, Johnny was the one who had done it. It’s a no-brainer that Johnny’s first killing spree was an act of revenge. He was ridiculed and killed by the lumberjacks, and then they killed his dad and were about to get away with it. So, he killed them, which is understandable. The Ranger’s father survived the ordeal and somehow figured out that burying Johnny in the spot where he “died” and hanging his mother’s locket on the pole perforating his grave would keep him there. 

Ten years prior to the events of the film, Johnny woke up and killed a bunch of park rangers. It’s unclear why he did that. My assumption is that they meddled with the aforementioned locket and caused Johnny to go berserk until The Ranger put him down. The tourists are killed one by one because Troy curses them by stealing Johnny’s mother’s necklace and putting it on Kris. I guess the necklace sends out some kind of signal when it’s not in Johnny’s vicinity, and anyone who comes in his path while he is looking for it ends up getting mauled to death. While most of Johnny’s kills are quite swift and heartless, he does take his sweet time to dismember The Ranger. Historically speaking, The Ranger and his father were the ones who imprisoned him. Hence, Johnny wanted revenge for that, and he wanted to make sure that the knowledge about incapacitating Johnny died with The Ranger. 

What does Johnny represent?

Based on Johnny’s first on-screen kill, it’s pretty clear that he represents the environment. Chuck, in addition to being a douchebag, is out there planting traps and killing innocent animals. If you are trapping an animal, you should have the basic decency of either putting it out of its misery or eating it. But Chuck apparently lets those animals writhe in pain and then leaves them to rot, and that’s wrong. So, Johnny killing Chuck is a form of karmic justice. This metaphor continued through the deaths of the lumberjacks. Yes, it was a case of violent revenge. However, the fact that that horrific act drove away capitalist businessmen and prevented White Pines from turning into a tourist hellscape makes Johnny a pro-environment slasher monster. The killing of the park rangers and the tourists makes Johnny a throwback to classic slasher villains like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. He symbolizes conservative people who can’t tolerate free-minded teens and youngsters. If you step on what he considers to be his property, you’ll die. If you listen to music, you’ll die. If you express your sexual preferences around him, you’ll die pretty brutally. 

That said, Troy, Colt, Evan, and The Ranger’s deaths seem to be Johnny’s way of humbling egotistical men. Troy is unable to take a joke about his “business” because it’s no laughing matter, according to him. Johnny squashes him like a bug. Evan thinks Johnny can be killed by shooting at him, and this misconception is cleared up with the help of an ax to his head. Colt underestimates Johnny’s reflexes and thinks it’s okay if he sneaks up on him and then mocks him. But Johnny proves that he is scarily fast. And finally, there’s The Ranger. This guy is riding high on the fact that he and his father have tamed the proverbial beast, and hence, he is superior to Johnny. That’s why Johnny reminds The Ranger that he is capable of adapting according to the circumstances and one-upping gun-toting men like him. You can call Johnny the alpha-anti-alpha man. 

Where Does Johnny Fall in the “Man vs. Bear” Allegory?

There is this huge discourse happening on social media that is centered around the question: would you prefer coming across a man or a bear when you are alone in the forest? This has turned into a conversation around women’s safety, as women are saying that they’ll take their chances with a bear instead of a man. Surprisingly enough, In a Violent Nature uses the final girl’s escape to add to this discussion. After making it out of the woods, Kris is rescued by The Woman (played by Lauren-Marie Taylor who starred in Friday the 13th Part 2). Kris is obviously distraught, and The Woman keeps asking her what she has faced in the forest that has traumatized her so much. Kris doesn’t bring up Johnny and only says that it’s the work of an animal. The woman assures Kris that she is going to be fine because her brother, Bobby, was once mauled by a bear who was suffering from an affliction called henhouse disease (it’s when a predator indiscriminately kills their prey without eating them). When the bear thought that Bobby was dead, it left him alone. Now, it’s pretty normal to draw a parallel between this bear and Johnny and rationalize his killings as a version of henhouse disease. However, the shot of Kris looking into the woods, unable to ascertain if something is staring back at her or not, proves that that’s not the case. 

The thing is, when it comes to a bear, if it realizes that its prey is dead or if you have put enough distance between yourself and the bear, it’s going to forget about you. It’s not going to get vengeful and chase you around endlessly. Can the same be said about Johnny? The trauma he has inflicted on Kris has done irreparable damage. On top of that, Kris has to live her life looking over her shoulder to see if Johnny is still hunting her. Yes, according to the movie’s logic, Johnny has reunited with his mom’s necklace, and he is going to go back to his resting place. That said, if you look at it realistically, he isn’t bound to that fire tower anymore. He didn’t kill Kris in three separate instances. Hence, he clearly wants to draw out this chase that has started in the woods of White Pines, thereby ruining Kris’ life for good; much like Michael Myers did to Laurie Strode. In conclusion, if it comes down to a bear with henhouse syndrome or a humanoid ghoul like Johnny, I think everyone will pick the bear over Johnny.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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