You have no idea what it took to bring me to this movie. I realize how slow things have been around here lately and since I’ve cleared up a lot of things that I felt were slowing me down, I figured I’d return to the old breakneck pace of this one man show but a funny thing happened. It turned out that a fairly intense training schedule, a second unrelated blog, building a site for a friend, writing a script and all this other shit I’d been putting this site off in favor of was all bullshit and most of the problem was that I was, in fact, bored as hell. Listless, even. Not just in terms of Cinema Suicide but just things in general. Enthusiasm it turns out, is a valuable commodity in these modern times for me. What wasn’t helping was the glaring fact that I haven’t seen anything interesting in a long time. There’s all this middle of the road crap that has come my way lately and there’s nothing harder in criticism than writing about a movie that leaves you with no impression whatsoever. What’s worse, I’ve sat down with some shit that I have hated so badly that I couldn’t find it in myself to watch the whole thing. I fired up Andreas Schnaas’ return to Violent Shit with Karl The Butcher vs. Axe and had to shut it off when it failed to meet my already exceedingly low expectations. I sifted through my review pile trying to find something that would inspire strong feelings one way or the other in a manner that I could articulate in more than three words (‘Fuck this movie’) and finally I settled on The Killer Inside Me, a piece of pulpy noir that I’ve been meaning to sit down with for a long time.
I can’t think of The Killer Inside me without thinking of The Dead Milkmen. Not ever. They have this song on Beelzebubba called Sri Lanka Sex Hotel that I’ve loved since the first time I heard it. It’s a typically Dead Milkmen style tune with a stream of lyrics from the perspective of a complete sociopath out looking for thrills. At one point, he declares “Let’s call the sheriff a cocksucker! See if he’s read The Killer Inside Me,” a line that I never quite understood until recently when I realized that I had this whole internet thing and it was pretty good at looking stuff up. It described a positively sleazy novel. Shortly thereafter, I started receiving solicitations in my inbox hyping up this piece and since I can’t seem to read more than ten pages of anything without falling asleep, I figured it would probably be in my best interest to just watch the movie.
Lou Ford is a deputy sheriff in a small Texas oil town. On the surface, he’s your ordinary dude. There is absolutely nothing remarkable about him. He seems to like his job. People seem to like him but beneath his exceptionally normal exterior is a seething, sadistic maniac. Lou is charged with running a local prostitute out of town but upon meeting her and taking a few slaps to the face he discovers that the two of them have a bit of a love connection when he finds out that she loves rough sex and being slapped around. Rather than run her out of town, Lou sparks up an ongoing romantic relationship with her, wherein he burns her with cigars and chokes her out with a belt during sex. You know, lovemaking. Things go south when Lou beats her to the edge of her life, thinking she’s dead, and shoots one of her clients, a guy he grew up with, while trying to blackmail him. The shooting victim is the son of a wealthy contractor and all kinds of heat comes down on Lou while he tries to cover his tracks. Bodies pile up and things get complicated, wouldn’t you know?
For some reason, noir and pulp are really hard to pull off on screen in contemporary film. Every now and then someone gets it right. The Cohen Brothers have made a career out of quirky, authentic noir whether it falls in traditional Hitchcockian territory or it involves an aging stoner with a yen for bowling. Jonathan Demme has made some kickass stuff. L.A. Confidential wasn’t bad but the problem with a lot of stuff that tries to pass itself off as noir or pulp is that it tries so hard to match that high contrast, smoky aesthetic of old school noir and forgets that it isn’t expressionistic lighting schemes and moody shots with a Phillip Marlowe narration that defines noir. It’s a set of seedy characters and harrowing circumstances that show human frailty in all its cynical glory. Enter stage right, The Killer Inside Me, a film whose likable characters wind up on the receiving end of a bludgeoning death and whose unlikable characters get an awful lot of screen time and wind up dead without much to pull you in and put you on their side.
Sometimes in horror, a quality script can present you with a killer that you like. I always point out Hannibal Lecter in these instances. You want to see Lecter get away and kill his enemies but you get no such thing here. Casey Affleck in the role of Lou Ford is a detestable monster. He takes us through the paces of an animal whose impulses are slowly backing himself into a corner but at no point is he ever sympathetic and never do you wonder “How’s Lou gonna get out of this pickle?” Ordinarily, this would make a movie like The Killer Inside Me very hard to watch and while it is due to some absolutely brutal scenes of misogynistic violence and a script whose main character is an evil monster, the entire picture is compelling as all get out. Key players in the cast, Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson, tend to drag the picture down with a pair of portrayals that never quite seem to know what to do with themselves, but Affleck float this entire picture with ferocity. Supporting player, Elias Koteas, a favorite of mine, turns up and also seems wasted as his nervous Union boss character gets to drop some intimidating lines on Ford, who either thinks he’s getting away with his crime or doesn’t care that he’s not, but like just about everyone else, the point of his presence is never clear. He’s just sort of there and then he’s not.
Cast shortcomings aside, The Killer Inside Me is a rock solid piece of scummy cinema couched in Michael Winterbottom’s expert direction. It is a rare piece of period noir that manages to keep up a good pace and taunts the viewer with the potential for Ford’s capture. This right here a kick ass thriller with heavy horror overtones and I’d love to see more of these pulpy 50’s penny dreadfuls adapted to screen based entirely on the appeal of this single movie. Bring on the depravity, I say!