Tag Archives: serial killer movies

Killer Joe

Killer Joe

Format: Cinema

Screening date: 29 June 2012

Venues: Key cities

Distributor: Entertainment One

Director: William Friedkin

Writer: Tracy Letts

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon

USA 2011

103 mins

‘I don’t think I’ll have to kill her. Just slap that pretty face into hamburger meat.’
– Jim Thompson dialogue from Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing

At one point during William Friedkin’s Killer Joe, an unexpected roundhouse to the face turns its recipient’s visage into a pulpy, swollen, glistening, blood-caked skillet of corned beef hash. Said recipient is then forced at gunpoint to fellate a grease-drenched KFC drumstick and moan in ecstasy while family members have little choice but to witness this horrendous act of violence and humiliation.

William Friedkin, it seems, has his mojo back.

He’s found it in the muse of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts. The two collaborated in 2007 on the nerve-wracking film adaptation of Bug, a paranoia-laden thriller with Michael Shannon and Ashley Judd. Set mostly within the dank, smoky confines of a sleazy motel room, both dialogue and character were scrumptiously Gothic. The story was full of unexpected beats, driving the action forward with so much mystery that we could never see what was coming. Alas, Letts lost command of his narrative in the final third, veering into predictability. In spite of this, Bug was still one of the most compelling and original works of its year.

Killer Joe is a total whack job of a movie, and delightfully so.

Set against the backdrop of Texas white trash, the picture opens with a torrential downpour that turns the mud-lot of a trailer park into the country cousin of war-torn Beirut. Amidst tire tracks turning into small lakes, apocalyptic squalor and lightning flashes revealing a nasty barking mastiff, a scruffy Chris (Emile Hirsch), drenched from head to toe, bangs on the door of a trailer. When it creaks open, a muff-dive-view of the pubic thatch belonging to his ne’er do well dad’s girlfriend Sharla (Gina Gershon) leads Chris to the bleary-eyed Ansel (Thomas Haden Church).

Chris desperately needs to clear up a gambling debt and suggests they order a hit to knock off his mom, Ansel’s ex-wife. She has a whopping life insurance policy and its sole recipient is Dottie (Juno Temple), the nubile, mentally unstable sister and daughter of Chris and Ansel respectively. Once they collect, Chris proposes they split the dough.

To secure the services of the charming Killer Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) they need to pay his fee upfront. Father and son propose Joe take a commission on the insurance money once it pays out. This is initially not an acceptable proposal until Joe catches sight of the comely Dottie. He agrees to take the job in exchange for a ‘retainer’ - sexual ownership of Dottie.

Father and brother of said sexy teen agree to these terms, though Chris betrays some apprehension as he appears to bear an incestuous interest in his dear sister.

From here, we’re handed plenty of lascivious sexuality, double crosses, triple crosses and eventually, violence so horrendous, so sickening that even those with strong stomachs might need to reach for the Pepto Bismol.

Basically, we’re in Jim Thompson territory here. It’s nasty, sleazy and insanely, darkly hilarious.

This celluloid bucket of glorious untreated sewage is directed with Friedkin’s indelible command of the medium and shot with a terrible beauty by ace cinematographer Caleb Deschanel.

Friedkin, the legendary director of The French Connection, The Exorcist and Cruising, dives face first into the slop with the exuberance of a starving hog at the trough and his cast delivers the goods with all the relish needed to guarantee a heapin’ helpin’ of Southern inbred Gothic.

This, my friends, is the kind of movie they don’t make anymore.

Trust William Friedkin to bring us back so profoundly and entertainingly to those halcyon days.

Oh, and if you’ve ever desired to see a drumstick adorned with Colonel Sanders’ batter, fellated with Linda Lovelace gusto, allow me to reiterate that you’ll see it here.

It is, I believe, a first.

This review was first published on Daily Film Dose.

Greg Klymkiw

A Horrible Way to Die

A Horrible Way to Die

Format: DVD + Blu-ray

Release date: 19 March 2012

Distributor: Anchor Bay

Director: Adam Wingard

Writer: Simon Barrett

Cast: A.J. Bowen, Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg

USA 201o

84 mins

Having impressed FrightFesters at last year’s festival, A Horrible Way to Die is now released on DVD and Blu-ray by Anchor Bay. An original take on the serial killer genre, it is seen mostly from the point of view of the former girlfriend of a murderer. After Garrick’s arrest, Sarah is trying to rebuild her life and address her problems, attending AA meetings, where she meets a sensitive young man. When Garrick is released, the film intercuts flashbacks of Sarah and Garrick’s lives together before she found out the truth about him with his journey down to the town Sarah now lives in, and her tentative new romance. Shot in an impressionistic, elliptical style, the film paints a nuanced picture, evoking the tenderness and love Sarah and Garrick shared, making her realisation of his betrayal all the more horrifying. A well-observed, evocative, heartbreaking story, it never feels sensational despite moments of violence, and develops slowly but compellingly, until all the pieces of the puzzle sickeningly fall into place.

Virginie Sélavy

This review was originally published as part of our coverage of Film4 FrightFest 2011.



Format: Cinema

Release date: 18 November 2011

Venues: Key cities

Distributor: Revolver Entertainment

Director: Justin Kurzel

Writers: Shaun Grant, Justin Kurzel

Cast: Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris

Australia 2011

119 mins

Welcome to the stocky, pudgy face of evil. Justin Kurzel’s film manages to make the vile criminal clan of Animal Kingdom seem positively well-adjusted, sharing with that work a shabby suburban aesthetic, a passive main protagonist and its roots in an authentic tale of Australian depravity. It portrays a darker world, though, a medicated plywood and lace curtain hellhole were the police never tread. Living in a housing trust home in a Northern Adelaide development, a one-kangaroo town of overgrown grass and coin slot entertainment, Elizabeth (Louise Harris) is initially pleased when bright-eyed and bushy-bearded John Bunting (Daniel Henshall) shows up to scare a local paedo creep away from her three sons. As the oldest, Jamie (Lucas Pittaway), starts to look up to John as a father figure, the latter goes on a moral mission to rid the area of the creeps, weirdos and junkies that the criminal system seems unable or unwilling to handle. But there’s a sliding scale of criminal justice, and John’s idea of who needs to be punished and how seems to slide more than most. He’s charming, manipulative, coercive and abusive, and people have a habit of disappearing whenever he’s around…

Authentically, viscerally convincing in its performances and milieu, Snowtown throbs with tension and a deep sense of wrongness from its first reel onwards. The horrors within it are always located in a recognisable setting, John’s poisonous bullshit is always served up around the table with the food. Arse rape takes place to a cricket commentary, kangaroos are dismembered on the back porch, kids on bikes and scooters blithely sail past a house where a man is being tortured to death, and when a gun first appears it does so through brightly coloured plastic strip curtains. Cute knick-knacks and ornaments litter the shelves above the wood panelling, and in front of them everybody is on smack or morally compromised or bears the mark of Cain. Nobody looks like a movie star (Henshall is the only pro actor in the cast), the sound design is oppressive and exhilarating, and the photography is perfectly unbeautiful. Without Louise Harris as the mother I strongly suspect it would be unwatchable; you never stop believing that she loves her sons and that she is essentially a good woman - but she largely vanishes from the film in its later stages. It’s a brilliantly realised nightmare, though not one that I imagine the Australian tourist board are too happy with.

It’s horrible. It’s brilliant. It’s horrible.

Mark Stafford