UK Exclusive: Lara’s Solo Review of The Killer Inside Me

8 Jun

Before coming to Oxford for a couple of weeks, one of my only Lara and The Reel Boy assignments I gave myself was to watch a movie that has not yet gone to America. You can imagine my disappointment, then, when the only movie playing exclusively here had the title The Killer Inside Me. Cheesy thrillers came to mind; particularly one I watched several years ago cleverly titled The Eye of the Killer, in which a washed-up detective (Keifer Sutherland) solves a murder mystery after developing a psychic connection that links him, through the magic of shoddy camera work and editing, with a killer. Despite the still-bitter memory of that film, I thought I’d look into this one since, as Funny People taught me, one shouldn’t judge a movie by its name. When I watched the trailer I saw that “cheesy” was not a word being used to describe the film. Instead reviewers were using words like “graphic,” “chilling,” and “controversial.” Good words in my book. So off I went to the picturehouse.

Another magnificent performance by Casey Affleck.

Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) is our boy scouty, Deputy Sherriff narrator. He says his “ma’am”s and “sir”s like any good West Texas boy would. He listens to records, drinks scotch, and dates the girl-next-door (Kate Hudson). He also has an affair with a prostitute (Jessica Alba), pummels both of his girlfriends and, as the story unfolds, goes on a vengeful murdering rampage. Thus springs the controversy. Without ever cutting away, director Michael Winterbottom, shows us an otherwise fine man beating women to a pulp. Without any protest. The first time Ford begins hitting his prostitute lover she almost doesn’t notice because their relationship has been built around sexual violence and objectification. The line between pleasure and abuse is blurred. Soon her flirtatious smiles turn to longing looks, though she continues to tell him she loves him as he beats her unrecognizable. After leaving her for dead, with “her face looking like hamburger meat” he apologizes and proclaims his love for her.

At the Sundance Festival screening, many audience members stormed out. Others screamed “Disgusting!” or “How dare you?”s at the director. Reviewers are calling it “disturbing” and “horrific.” I even read a review that said no human can watch some of the scenes without looking away. (So, just so you know, the rest of this review is being written by an android as I am, apparently, no longer human). When asked what was the point of such unrelenting sadism, Winterbottom said, “The film is shocking, I think, specifically because it’s to do with brutality against women. Also, because Ford has a close relationship with both these women, there’s an added perversity to his actions. To me, it would be far worse to do a film about a killer who is crazy that isn’t shocking. The violence shouldn’t be enjoyable.” A valid argument in my opinion: a movie centered on a murderer that shies away from grotesque imagery is, in itself, grotesque. Unlike American Psycho or Dexter, none of the film is satirical or light-hearted, it is to be taken for what it is. I certainly will never be able to think of an abusive relationship without seeing images from this film in my mind’s eye. Whether or not that is a good thing is definitely debatable. When asked how he viewed the graphic scenes, Casey Affleck said, “I thought, ‘Well, this is not going to glamorize violence or desensitize the viewer, it’s going to be upsetting.’ That’s what it ought to be.” Upsetting the film certainly is.

Ford and his victim.

Many reviewers claim that the film is misogynistic due to its graphic violence being concentrated on women; all the men who are killed have the good fortune of doing so off screen. I noticed this as well, but thought it more for the sake of the storyline—all the murders committed outside of the comfort of a home were left a mystery, giving the viewer more reason to question the reliability of the narrator. However, in an interview with Jessica Alba she revealed that in one of the sex scenes, during which she is bound and choked, “the violence ran both ways” during the filming, but “they cut that out.” Why was it cut? Was that Winterbottom’s intention all along? Did he write in that they were both going to be inflicting pain on one another so that Alba or another A-list actress would sign on? Or was it cut later in order to show her character as a victim?

Unfortunately and, quite obviously, I don’t have the answers to any of these questions. And, as you can tell, I still don’t know how I felt about The Killer Inside Me. While I was watching it I didn’t hate it. I found it intriguing. Casey Affleck was brilliant as usual, channeling a creepster that made his Robert Ford from The Assassination of Jesse James seem like Opie Taylor. The storyline was vaguely reminiscent of No Country for Old Men, the screenplay was sharp, and the Southern twist on film noir was inventive. It was the more the film set into me, when I gave it more time to seep into my brain, that I began to question its necessity. Though others may argue this (I know Winterbottom does), I want my serial killers to be satirized or based on a historical account. And even if Winterbottom is right, that violence should be shown as realistically as possible, there still doesn’t seem to be any morality to the film. While the battering is depicted as vile and repulsive, there is no remorse shown by Lou Ford. Though he is our narrator we do not see the deep inner workings of his murderous mind. There is no deep psychological battle. He beats and he kills and he beats and he kills to the bitter end.

Still confused and wishing I had someone to discuss it with,
Lara

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4 Responses to “UK Exclusive: Lara’s Solo Review of The Killer Inside Me”

  1. Joey Strawn June 8, 2010 at 9:53 am #

    (I’ve heard much about this movie and have thought long and hard whether or not I actually want to see it; so this comment comes from someone who has not seen the film.)

    I wanted to say something in response to what you said at the end of your post. I couldn’t tell if the lack of remorse on Lou’s part bothered you, but I can tell you from my perspective, it makes him all the more creepy if he shows no remorse whatsoever. This isn’t Crime and Punishment with 1 minute of murder and 140 minutes of remorse/humanizing. What’s more scary than a true sociopath who has no emotional connection to anyone? That scares me.

    BTW, I’m not disagreeing at all with your review (it makes me want to see the film, now). Just throwing in my opinion about the portrayal of a true sociopath and my fears involved with that.

    • CintusSuprimus June 8, 2010 at 11:38 am #

      Good point. The lack of conscience is more realistic and eerie, even if it is more bothersome. My main problem with it is that it doesn’t necessarily portray him or his actions in a negative light. It’s one thing that he doesn’t have any qualms with his own behavior, but his women don’t seem to mind it either… even when he’s battering them.

      I certainly don’t recommend the film, but I also thought it was really interesting.

  2. Rob June 8, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    I think that there are clues in the story, the perspective being first person, which indicate that we are at the mercy of an unreliable narrator. Are these women as servile as portrayed or is this just the accounting of events as seen by Lou Ford, an increasingly unhinged psychopath?

    A line from an old Marvin Gaye song says, “Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.” Perspective is everything and ours as viewers is decidedly skewed here.

    Ford wants to destroy those that love him. So, perversely, what better way to justify his actions (to himself) than to, perhaps, imagine his victim professing said love, while he destroys her? In this story we have that chilling thought filtered through a completely subjective portrayal of events. Powerful and, in my mind, brilliant.

    • CintusSuprimus June 10, 2010 at 8:53 am #

      I definitely agree. There’s no doubt that Lou Ford isn’t showing us the whole truth. For instance, the validity of the characters Joe Rothman and Billy Boy Walker, as well as Ford’s grand finale, were questionable. And the fact that Winterbottom didn’t answer all of the audience’s questions at the end was refreshing and smart. It’s so much easier to square away everything at the end of a thriller (ex. Shutter Island) but also a lot less interesting. However, the lack of a reveal will likely leave less critical audience members unaware of the narrator’s capriciousness– and therefore ignorant of the state of mind of the story’s females.

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