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Killer Me
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by Chris Parry

"When the love interest is creepier than the serial killer, something's up."
3 stars

You've gotta love it when a movie about a pyscho killer actually leaves you feeling some sympathy for the bad guy. All too often Hollywood forces us into a corner with imperfect characters, either taking them to a sadistic extreme or turning them into the bad guy who just couldn't help himself because his folks, ex-girlfriend, God or drugs made him do it. In Killer Me, the folks don't get to shake all the blame for their loopy man-child, but they at the very least take second stage to mood, atmosphere, acting and the prospect of romance down the road. A twisted, sick romance, but romance none the less.

Joe is a murderer. It's not something he places on his resume when going for a job, exactly. In fact, it's a part of his being that he finds hard to justify. Feed the goldfish, do the dishes, slash the abusive husband next door, sleep, repeat. Kinda hard to explain that to your buddies when they call up and ask how your day has been.

Unless of course your buddies wear clown make-up and butcher children at birthday parties, but I'm digressing.

So Joe's messed up. We're talking 'Charlton Heston' messed up. Perhaps even 'Idaho farmer who puts anti-abortion billboards in the cow paddock' messed up. Maybe even 'Mike Tyson not having eaten for a few days' messed up. Not quite "Jeffrey Dahmer" messed up, but not far off. The kind of messed up that makes you shake your head and mumble, "dude, seriously..."

Then one day Joe is hit upon by Anna, a girl from his criminology class. Anna is a cute thing, a baby doll with almost gothic appeal, but she's also a total and utter fruitbasket. And that's where Killer Me starts to go from interesting character study to slightly... off the rails.

See, Anna is a dead set freak. She displays seventeen more personality disorders than our hero murderer, and though I wouldn't personally kick her out of bed if she'd left skidmarks in the thing, I know full well that I'd be paying for that for many months to come. A cute psycho chick is still a psycho when you wake up in the morning (ah, the memories), and this one is about as psycho as the girl who spent half an hour on my bathroom floor trying to slash her wrists with a butter knife (ah, more memories). But maybe that's too much information.

So Joe is happy to have psycho girl in his life, because Joe is a psycho too, and we all know that psychos breed well together (though sometimes they don't - Billy Bob and Angelina had to adopt, didn't they?). So Joe makes some moves for the babe, and the babe makes a boatload of moves towards him, not to mention demonstrating a severe need for therapy.

Meanwhile, Joe is still a-cuttin' and a-struttin' onhis nightly freak-outs. Well, not a-struttin' so much, but it rhymes with a-cuttin', so you'll just have to deal.

Now, thinking folk will look at what Joe does in his spare time and say, "Joe, it's not a career move," and few could disagree with that assessment. But the Gods of screenwriting have almost given him justification for being a murdering ho-bag, because he only gets the murdering feeling when someone is a violent ass around him. Like for example the guy next door who beats his wife and yells a lot. Or the father at the pet store who smacks his kid upside the head for disappearing on him. These people deserve to be sliced up and fed to the pigs, right? RIGHT?

Well, in movieland the answer is yes, and unfortunately, as solid as Killer Me is for such a low budget drama, it falls victim to all the cliche angles in a serial killer story and doesn't seem to do so with any sense of irony. The evil parentage, the penchant for only killing bad guys, the desire to be good so he can please his woman, the interest in criminology while he's being a bad boy... Added to this, the film also goes overboard on the symbolism front (a red scrapbook of murder clippings? Riiight, and while you're at it, the falling rose petals when a throat is sliced... that's just so 1999).

Which is all a shame, because the base of Killer Me is solid stuff. George Foster, playing Killer Boy Joe, does a decent job making a basically dialogue-free loon into a fairly realistic dude. There's a lot of emoting, and a lot of grunting, but Foster doesn't stink up the joint at all (a line that I'm sure won't make the video cover blurbs). Christina Kew, our female lead of the piece, also does a decent job, though she certainly takes a while to get warmed up. Some early scenes of hers are just awful, though it's tough to say whether the awful comes from within her, or within the lines she's supposed to be saying. One she's warmed up and being natural, she's not only beautiful but also fun to watch on a story level. As for the rest of the cast... well, nobody else gets more than about six words of dialogue. It's the Joe and Anna show, ladies and gentlemen.

Though it must be said that the real star of this show is the director, Zachary Hansen, who is also the writer, and the editor, and scores the always wankworthy "a film by" credit into the bargain. Indie filmmakers need to be careful of that trap, because by assigning yourself a litany of credits, you align yourself with both the best and worst of the film you've put out there. Hansen has excelled in the directing slot, but his script is a little tired, often hackneyed and has holes a-plenty. One scene where the killer confesses, only to be told by the police not to waste their time because he can't remember details, is straight out of Cliche Encyclopedia, Volume 14.

That's incidentally my favorite volume, being as it's in the gold leaf cover and also contains the entries for "having to choose between the red and green wires" and "the hooker only just started hooking, so she can still be a romantic interest, at least until she's blown a homeless guy in a dumpster".

Pretty Woman sure was great, wasn't it?

On the upside, Hansen sure can set the mood, and his DP Neal Fredericks does an awful lot of good work with the tools at his disposal. The imagery seen in Killer Me goes far beyond the limitations of its screenplay to add a third lead character to the mix - otherwise known as Atmosphere - and the score only adds to that as the characters on screen spin out of control.

Killer Me is a very moody little flick, and an undeniably decent piece of atmosphere-loaded drama. I wanted to love it, and frequently did, but I also frequently found things that could draw scorn, or at the very least a self-inflicted slapping of the forehead. Maybe even an eye-roll. Really, it depends on your tolerance for hokey, and the credit you can give to making a dramatic thriller believable on a shoestring budget. The good, the bad and the indie - it's all here.

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originally posted: 08/23/03 18:23:20
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Method Fest Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Method Fest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Had To Be Made Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Had To Be Made Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/14/03 Joseph Borelli Worth a look 4 stars
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  02-Jul-2003 (R)



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