Why Thoroughbreds Isn’t Nearly As Violent As It Could Have Been

Anton Yelchin Anya Taylor Joy Thoroughbreds

Warning! Minor spoilers to follow for Thoroughbreds. Come back later if you haven't seen it yet.

Cory Finley's Thoroughbreds is a movie that contains violence, but isn't what you would call a violent film. There are big moments of intensity, and there is a fair bit of fake blood in play, but the most vicious moments that occur don't actually happen on screen. It's an interesting choice that the director makes, but when I recently had the chance to speak with Finley, he fully explained his thought process in the matter:

Part of it is having it start as a play. It's very hard on stage to have violence without going in sort of a farcical direction. And even putting movies to screen, I knew that if you watch someone sawing through the vertebrae of a horse, you're probably in a very different sort of a midnight movie/gore-fest, which was not at all what I wanted to make.

Prior to Thoroughbreds' theatrical release this past weekend, I had the pleasure of hopping on the phone for an interview with Cory Finley, and one of the subjects discussed was his approach to violence in the movie. It turns out that there were a couple of factors that influenced the choices, and they started with the two above. Coming from the theater world he didn't naturally lean towards depicting insane scenes of violence, and he also had no intention of having the movie come across as a B-level horror movie. As he continued, however, he also expressed his larger philosophy when it comes to on-screen viciousness.

Rather than being interested in the violence itself, what Cory Finley is instead more focused on is the way in which it emotionally affects the characters in the story. For example, we never get to see the heinous act that the emotionless Amanda (Olivia Cooke) commits, but you get to experience the horror of it all through the close up on Lily's face (Anya Taylor-Joy). Said Finley,

My general strategy in any of these moments of violence is when we're hearing about the violence or literally hearing the violence but not seeing it, we want to keep the camera on the character that is the most sort of emotionally affected by the violence, or the character that we care most about. It puts the focus on the character that has to deal with the violence, and think about the violence, because that's what we are as movie audiences. We're never actually gonna feel violence - we're reacting emotionally to violence. So it's interesting to be hand in hand with our characters.

Ultimately, it's a fascinating take from talented, thoughtful new filmmaker discussing one of the most exciting big screen debuts we've seen in a while. Audiences can now see it for themselves, as Thoroughbreds is currently out in limited release.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.