MARCH 29, 2010
Between Kaley Cuoco, Leighton Meester, Gloria Votsis, and Torrey DeVitto, you’d think it would be pretty obvious why I would want to watch Killer Movie, right? Well, wrong - it was actually the presence of Nestor Carbonell that enticed me. As one of my favorite characters/actors from Lost (and The Tick!), I was excited to see him in a movie (a horror movie at that!). The quartet of very lovely ladies was a bonus. And his character is a delight, a typically douchey agent who pops up from time to time explaining why he refused to answer an actor’s call or whatever. He wasn’t in the movie as much as I had hoped, but this made his occasional appearances (most of which are in “direct to camera” confessional videos - more on that next) all the more enjoyable.
As for the confessional videos - the movie concerns the crew of a reality show being stalked by a killer. But this is actually a relatively minor aspect of the movie, and apart from the confessionals, which comprise a total of maybe 5 minutes of the movie, there is nothing “reality” or documentary-esque about the movie - no “found footage”, no hand-held, camera graphic on screen shots, etc. Hell, they barely ever even film anything for their show. Ultimately, the reality show stuff is just a red herring; a means to get everyone to the town and nothing else - they could have all been there for a spelling bee for all it mattered. Writer/director Jeff Fisher is a vet of a dozen reality shows, so I guess it's more of a "Go with what you know" decision than anything else.
In fact, the thing I liked most about Fisher’s script was that it kept me off-guard and misdirected, something I can’t say about too many slashers at all, let alone modern ones (I’m going to head into spoiler territory here, so skip the next two paragraphs if you want to be surprised for yourself). Early on, we learn about two warring hockey coaches, and that the town is prone for people getting into “accidents”, and that the director (Vampire Diaries’ Paul Wesley) was specifically requested for the gig by the lead actress (Cuoco), who was recently under investigation for assault, etc. It’s a lot of red herrings, but it’s ultimately pretty simple - which I loved. So many slasher movies (hell, movies in general) exist in this sort of bubble, where we only learn about things/people that are directly important to the plot, so I liked the idea of presenting this Twin Peaks-y town but having the killer’s motive basically come down to simple jealousy.
And I didn’t guess the killer! (Remember, spoiler-phobes, you’re supposed to skip this paragraph too!) I thought for sure that Carbonell would turn out to be the killer, because he was one of the bigger names in the cast and yet seemingly had no part in the proceedings. But it was someone else (I won’t say who), with Carbonell remaining safely in LA for the entire movie. In fact, one of the film’s other great strengths is that it introduces a lot of characters that could be viable suspects, but doesn’t kill them all off so that it ultimately becomes impossible for it to be anyone but a particular person. Scream is the only other slasher I can think of that pulled this off successfully, where at the end it could have been one of maybe 5-6 folks and all would have been a satisfying answer (as opposed to say, Sorority Row, where the killer turned out to be a glorified extra, or worse, I Know What You Did Last Summer, where the killer was someone we never met). Any time a movie can successfully pull the wool over my eyes but not come off as a cheat, I’m pretty happy.
I kind of liked how prolific the killer was too. Almost every kill scene involves the would-be victim finding another character (or someone we never saw, like the clerk at the grocery store) lying dead. Not only does it boost the movie’s kill count without it becoming a splatterfest (it’s actually fairly tame, again, not unlike Scream), but it also helps with the mis-direction. Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that they pull the same trick from My Bloody Valentine (the original), possibly even more successfully so because of the groundwork that was laid from the other off-screen kills.
My only qualm, besides the groan-worthy reality show set up (it took me a bit to warm to the movie), is that the final girl is kind of unlikable for the bulk of the movie, and suddenly turns sympathetic and even protective near the end. I would have liked it had they either humanized her a bit more throughout the film, or merely kept up her snotty attitude all the way through (or killed her!). It’s sort of jarring, because for most of the movie she’s a bit intolerable (Cuoco’s inherent appeal is about the only reason you AREN’T rooting for her death) and sort of a supporting character, and then suddenly she’s our main character. It’s sort of ballsy to make her a bit of a bitch, but I’m not sure it’s an entirely successful gamble.
Oh, and Votsis and DeVitto looked alike to me, which confused me at times. This is my only complaint about their presence. Be in more movies, ladies!
Like Alien Raiders, Killer Movie’s secret weapon is its really shitty title lowering my expectations. It’s not exactly going to blow anyone’s mind or anything, but it’s a solid, well-made, engaging flick all the same; catering to fans of its sub-genre while adding some unique flair and creativity. And stars folks from my favorite genre shows (Raiders had Carlos Bernard from 24 and Rockmond Dunbar from Prison Break, this has Lost’s Carbonell, plus Meester was on Surface, a cool show from 2006-07 that unfortunately never got a 2nd season). BC approved!
What say you?