While watching The Killer Inside Me, I couldn’t help but think about American Psycho, and how much I disliked that film. For many of the same reasons, The Killer Inside Me also fails, although there are some areas in which it surpasses the earlier film which I found too boring to evoke much emotion inside of me. The easiest example I can bring up is that I wasn’t often bored while watching this film — an instant improvement.
The film stars Casey Affleck as Lou Ford, a sheriff of a small town. He’s the type of guy that every woman loves, and every male idolizes; he’s clean-cut, smart, polite, and confident. He also mumbles a lot, which is a shame because it makes it hard for us to hear him, even if the other characters never have trouble understanding him. The plot begins when he’s told by his boss (Tom Bower) to go to the town outskirts and force a prostitute, Joyce (Jessica Alba) to leave.
It’s impossible to discuss any more of the plot without spoilers, so if you want to avoid them completely, then you’ve likely decided you’re going to watch this film anyway. Go do that if that’s your decision, but there is a major even which happens around the ten minute mark, and it’s impossible to talk about much else without at least spoiling this part.
Ford embarks in a love affair with Joyce, despite having a girlfriend back in-town named Amy (Kate Hudson). No, this isn’t the major event I mentioned earlier, but it’s an important point nonetheless. Joyce is a masochist, and their affair is quite violent. Eventually, and I’m not giving everything away here, she is brutally beaten — almost killed — and Ford has to cover it up by planting it on, and killing, a man who she had previously been in a relationship in. I’m misleading you somewhat here, but hopefully it’ll get you interested enough to not question this.
There are a few deaths during The Killer Inside Me, but there are two that stand out. The first is Joyce’s, and the second is of a woman whose name I won’t mention. The former is brutal because of how unflinching it is while her face gets impounded and her body mistreated. It’s a long scene that goes into the territory where it’s just too long and excessive — something that should have been cut down. The second isn’t quite as graphic in terms of its violence, but the way this woman is murdered, and almost more importantly, the way that the murderer goes about his actions afterward, makes it stand out.
I’ve shied away from what this film is really about, although those of you who have seen American Psycho will probably understand what I mean when I found this film to be very comparable to it. The main character is the most similar aspect, although this film is set in the 50’s, not the 80’s. Both are delusional, both have our experience of the film filtered through their brain, and they also both talk to us through voiceover, although Ford does it more frequently than Bateman did.
But we still don’t really get to see into the character’s head, which is one of the problems I had with both of these films. They talk to us a lot at the beginning, and we are given the expectation that we’ll get to hear their thoughts whenever something happens. Most of the time though, we don’t get this, which I thought was too bad. I guess I’ll still have to wait for a film to really delve into what it means to be a — I’ve gone this long without telling you exactly who Ford is, and I’m not going to blow that now.
What turned me off American Psycho was how boring I found it. Thankfully, The Killer Inside Me is frequently exciting, largely because there’s more than one character that we actually spend a great deal of time with. Instead of removing potentially interesting people every time they begin to grow on us, director Micahel Winterbottom (and by extension, Jim Thompson, the man who wrote the novel this film is based on) does this once, but then lets a lot of the other characters grow until much later.
Casey Affleck actually gives quite the performance, and by that I mean he doesn’t show a hint of emotion throughout, except in his passionate love scenes with, well, every woman he meets that’s close to his age. He’s a character that’s polite to everyone he meets, but he never smiles, cries, gets angry, or does anything else that makes him interesting. It’s a great performance because of how low-key it is, but it also makes him an uninteresting character to follow. This is ultimately the downfall of The Killer Inside Me.
That’s not to say it’s bad, because individual events are still engaging, but having us spend almost two hours with a character we feel absolutely nothing for is a tough sell. Making him interesting would have been difficult, and if he was like that in the book, good on the filmmakers for sticking close to the source material, but it just didn’t work for me.
I’m also not sure if this is a film you’ll want to watch. Apart from the unlikable main character, the events that are depicted within are quite graphic in terms of their violence, and they make it a difficult watch just by themselves. I’m not sure if it’s worth sitting through them — long, drawn-out beatings against other characters — to appreciate some of the other moments. Hating a movie for what it presents means that it did its job in getting an emotional response out of you. But is sitting through two hours just to be infuriated really worth it?
Hopefully you know a slight bit more about The Killer Inside Me now than you did coming in. If you’ve read the novel, you’re already aware of what the film features. If you haven’t, then you’re in for a surprise if you decide to watch it. Do I recommend it? Only if you’re not bothered by violence, and if you really enjoyed American Psycho, because the two films are similar in nature. For those of you missing the connection between those two films, I found this one to be more enjoyable, as the supporting cast got more depth. But that’s just me. I’m not sure if this is worth a watch, but it certainly got emotion out of me.