In a Violent Nature: What is White Pine Slaughter? Is it Based on a Real Urban Legend?

Campfire stories are a mainstay in horror films. Such is the case in ‘In a Violent Nature‘ when a group of friends sits down to recount the gruesome tale of the White Pine Slaughter, a massacre that occurred within a logging camp in a dense forest in North Ontario. The story details the history of the woods, providing insight into the origin of the film’s terrifying villain and protagonist, Johnny. His killing spree is connected to the events described in the urban legend and serves as a reminder of his potential for violence and destruction. So dreaded is the campfire rendition of White Pine Slaughter in the narrative that it incites a closer examination of the urban legend’s genesis. SPOILERS AHEAD

White Pine Slaughter is Not a Real Massacre

The White Pine Slaughter story narrated by Ehren, one of the campers, to his group of friends in ‘In a Violent Nature’ is not a real tale. The story was conceived in its entirety by writer and director Chris Nash, who enhances the contextual backdrop to his villain by adding the slaughter story into the mix. According to the legend, 70 years before the film’s events, the son of a shopkeeper at a logging camp in the North Ontario wilderness named Johnny died when he fell from a fire tower after being surprised by a group of loggers who would bully the boy regularly. Johnny’s body would be covered with a firefighter mask and buried underneath the tower. Days later, when some executives stopped by the logging camp, they witnessed a scene of mass death as the whole logging camp was ripped to shreds, including the people.

Although macabre in its description, the story highlights one of the critical aspects of ‘In a Violent Nature,’ which is even reflected in its title – the battle between man and nature. The film repeatedly jumps back on this dichotomy through its antagonist, Johnny, who is like a force of nature taking down all signs of modern civilians roaming in his vicinity. It also rewinds on this theme through the slaughter story, where a bunch of loggers trying to level a forest got ripped to pieces by an unknowable force that only metes out punishment. Nature, when messed with, returns something in equal measure. In the case of the film’s narrative, that something is Johnny, who, seeking his form of personal vengeance, hands out the consequences of hurting or meddling with the forest’s harmony and seclusion.

Johnny’s Slaughter Has a Resembling Campfire Urban Legend

Although White Pine Slaughter is a fictional story crafted for ‘In a Violent Nature,’ the urban legend plays a big part in adding to the ferocity and brutality of the protagonist, Johnny. As he stomps through the woods in search of his prey, his terrifying appearance is second to his cold-blooded attitude towards killing. His weapons of choice – the drawhooks – are reminiscent of another popular urban legend – the Hook or the Hookman, a killer with a hook in his hand that he uses to hunt down couples in a forest. This mysterious and terrifying presence never reveals his face to those he targets. These characteristics are shared with Johnny, who likes to wear his firefighter mask when killing the group of young campers.

The Hook has been referenced several times in many horror films. As talked about in the White Pine Slaughter, Johnny’s modus operandi is incredibly brutal and dangerously straightforward, just like the Hookman. On the campfire scene where the protagonist’s real background is explained through the slaughter tale, the writer-director, Chris Nash, said he was interested in the idea of using the campfire scene as a way to give “more credibility” to the backstory of the killer and make it more real for the campers, who will eventually face the horror. He also referenced the previous hits in the slasher genre as the overall influence on his film, especially the villain.

To sum it up, White Pine Slaughter may not be a real urban legend or myth that defines historical events from the past, but it offers a glimpse into the dark, twisted affairs of the past that come to fruition in violent ways. The slaughter that gave birth to Johnny’s legend may be too grisly, but several instances of real urban legends have a similarly unedifying outcome.

Read more: In a Violent Nature: Is the Story Inspired By Reality?