Sunday 13 March 2011

The Killer Inside Me (2010) - Michael Winterbottom

I begin this with a warning: The Killer Inside Me is incredibly violent.  This will either make you sick, or keep you sickeningly intrigued.

It's a noir thriller with a beautiful exterior and a dark, cold centre.  Set in a 1950s Texan town, Casey Affleck plays Lou Reed: a deputy sheriff with an all-American outer demeanor and a terrible secret.  He conducts an illicit affair with a prositute (Jessica Alba) which releases his sado-masochistic, mysoginist desires that manifest in a series of murders.  The violence is infrequent, but this only increases the brutal impact.  What's worse, the women have an expression of submission which is all the more difficult to watch.  Yet the dark, seedy interiors contrast with the town shot in soft focus, heightening the juxtaposition between the "light which comes before the dark".  Meanwhile country ballads play for ironic effect, such as Shame On You used over the credits.  This contrast is present in Reed himself, with Affleck's high-pitched drawl perfectly balancing the ambiguity between good guy and sociopath.

However, strip away both the violence and puzzling narrative and the film feels a little empty, as the killer's true motive is never fully explained.  I suspect the 1952 novel, with its first person narrative, psychoanalyses more convincingly the killer inside, whilst leaving the violence to your own sick imagination. 

Despite the slow pace, the film will still hold your attention as it scours the depths of the killer's mind.  File next to American Psycho for brave films that dare to explore the killer inside - but leave you feeling a little ill.