The Killer Inside Me (2010)

The Killer Inside Me (2010) is an American crime drama film adaptation of the 1952 novel of the same name by pulp fiction guru Jim Thompson (The Getaway and The Grifters among his most popular books turned into films), directed by prolific English television and film director Michael Winterbottom from a script by John Curran (The Painted Veil, We Don’t Live Here Anymore) – See my review of the film Stone from Curran’s screenplay.

While the original 1950s pulp novel was heralded by many, considered a compelling and uncompromising exploitation of crime and drama, this treatment of the material suffers from a purposefully detached and emotionally vacant portrayal of an everyday man sociopath prone to insidious acts of violence without consequence or context.  The simple truth is that the pulp material, pulp as in escapism fiction for the general entertainment of mass audiences, doesn’t translate to the big screen or any screen for that matter.  The only thing worse than a film that takes itself too seriously is one that does not take itself serious enough, and Mr. Winterbottom’s erred judgment is second only to the incredible wasted opportunity to exploit the talented cast and crew.

The Killer Inside Me disappoints at every turn, both a product of consumer fascination with violence and an exploration of the death-for-no-reason-at-all culture that has taken front row in audiences near and far.  This phenomenon is perhaps best exemplified in the bastardization of film ratings, the choice of PG13 over an R rating in order to maximize audiences and dumb down the subject matter.  Have you ever watched a PG13 version of Good Fellas or Boyz In the Hood? Don’t bother.  In the past decade alone, drawn as much to the spectacle of death and disembowelment as the treatment of extreme violence, audiences grow increasingly perplexed by stories shrouded in social commentary that frequently if not always falls on deaf ears and blind eyes.  People go to see zombie movies because, in fact, they expect to see copious amounts of zombies, brutality and nonsensical mayhem.  In turn, people are dismayed by the lack of zombies in their mid-afternoon or late evening ventures to the metro-plex or neighborhood cinema.  In this case, The Killer Inside Me plays like a bad afternoon freebie, a film too full of itself to be interesting, too insulting of the senses to afford even the most liberal of criticism.

The story is told from the perspective of the protagonist, Lou Ford, a twenty-something deputy sheriff in a small town with dreams that never seem to materialize outside the boundaries of every-town America amid second time felons and want-to-be starlets.  Casey Affleck is a convincing deputy, though his peculiar one-track tone and wide-eyed sensibility infuses deputy Ford with a kind of simple mindedness and run-of-the-mill micro town personae that is at once available but quickly embarks into a realm of blatant disregard that never fully translates in a cinematic way.  The problem isn’t necessarily with the material as it is with director Winterbottom who treats the violence like a veil that is seemingly raised and lowered at will, never given reason or depth but used liked a battle-axe to clear the path – never mind the carnage attached with the action or the appropriate reaction to said carnage.

There is no point to this film any more than there is to films like Michael Haneke’s remake of Funny Games or Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds – films, regardless of theory and form, fail with every breath to convince the audience that they should keep watching because the filmmakers were making a statement of merit.  In this case, Winterbottom is lost in the subject matter, incapable of resolving the fundamental error of the storyline so that the audience is able to glean something from the very earliest steps of the protagonist and much worse, every step thereafter that plays out like an inept soap opera with paper-thin characters with sketchy, uninteresting stories to tell.

The Killer Inside Me is no less brutal than an animal that wanders into rush hour traffic, than a calf lead to the slaughter – for these things we have seen and experienced and therefore they possess weight in our world, unlike this film.  Even the worst zombie movie finds a way to give the weakest character in the film device enough to survive, to carry the message of survival, of having made it through.  The sad reality is no one informed mister Winterbottom that such prerequisites are necessary in a film lest we relegate the effort to that of a television movie of the week no one but the sedate or wheelchair bound are forced to sit through – unless they wield the remote control and can find anything else to pass their time.

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About rorydean

Rory Dean is a multi-medium artist, writer and new media strategist with a background as a creative consultant and technology liaison in the San Francisco Bay Area. His broad experiences and specialties include print-to-web publicity, promotions and design marketing using traditional and social media networks. As a motion pictures and television professional, his short films, productions and commercials have screened to domestic and international audiences. His connections to a diverse client base include artists, entertainers, corporations, non-profits and everyday people.. Dean is co-owner and founder of Dissave Pictures, a boutique production company focusing on audio, video, photography and multi-media designs. Dean's personal and professional background includes dreaming and avid notebook journaling, creative and copy writing, promotions and marketing, audio/video production, photography, videography, editing, web design and new media. He’s also a fan of collaboration and knows when to turn the reigns over, offer feedback, lead the team and step aside. His portfolio includes print, online, film, video, photography, graphic design and promotions. He’ll show you. He has a book and everything. "When not juggling various online worlds, I do a pretty good mime – but that’s another story."
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10 Responses to The Killer Inside Me (2010)

    • YES.. SO many thoughts.You could not have put my own sentiments more precisely and eloquently as you did Rory..The Killer Inside Of Me, made a seasoned horror and violence buff such as myself, STOP, reflect and disavow violence in my thoughts and life all together…In that way it was a good experience..As for the film itself?? Suspense is better than shock.And a continual shock and no suspense involved.As he just proceeds always and unexpectedly to beat the two women he loves, to death, slowly and methodically while we watch this HORROR….Beyond monster whore.This was the monster.The last thing mentally imbalanced viewers especially younger people, need to see as a somehow romanticized and once again programed invitation into the world of killing as THE NORM……
      The film sucked and damaged my mind in certain ways.It took weeks for me, as an artist and actor and human being, to break it out of my thoughts..
      Disturbing horse shit…..
      With this milk toast like waif of a man, Casey Affleck showing a truly chilling and horrible side of humanity..I will never look a soft skinned,pasty faced yuppie type again with macho reassurance that I am tougher than him..It shows that anyone can be a Psychopathic killer.
      James Wilkinson

      • rorydean says:

        Correct on all levels Jim. This is what happens when I take a chance. I remember now how much you disliked the film and looking over your comments I can’t agree more. I’m glad in a way that you were able to see the film for what it is, a glorification of violence and a inept story full of unlikeable characters and exploited good looks for the sake of selling.

        Thanks for the thoughts->

  1. bleuravyn says:

    I too could not find much if anything to like about this movie.. I ended up being much more interested in reading the book in my lap after trying to get through this movie 3 times during the duration of my rental time. I found the violence a huge turn off and only ended up making it to the end of the movie in hopes of finding some tiny little redeeming thing to happen – which I was sorely disappointed. O well. At least I had something else to do while it was on so it really wasn’t a complete waste of time!

    • rorydean says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, for stopping by – though admittedly this film just stirs me up each time I think about it and everyone who wasted two hours watching it. This is a classical example of concept over content that I’ve written about time and time again, an approach to storytelling that rarely translates successfully in a cinematic way. The film is disturbing if anything, neither a horror film or monster movie with stylized violence that is given context simply by the nature of the particular genre. This film dwells in darker waters at the psychological and emotional levels but fails to give us a connection – I don’t imagine many people can relate to the main character or can sympathize with him. He’s not given any redeeming qualities and as such he is seen as an emotionally crippled caricature, a sketch worthy of the villain or protagonist but not the main character. He has no equals in the film and therefore no one to administer the necessary consequences of his actions. The problem with films like this is the story is unrewarding, the characters so extreme and the violence so stylistically offensive that we’re kept at a distance and the disconnect ruins the experience. Only those truly interested in sadism and masochistic expressions of sex and violence without context would find this appealing and even then, I’d guess they too would be disappointed.

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  3. Rodney says:

    I haven’t seen it, and based on the thoughts of a few close friends who have (and whose opinions I trust) I probably wont – mainly for the excessive violence within the film, which seemed to them to be more for the shock value than anything else.

    Would this statement be accurate?

    • rorydean says:

      Absolutely. I was really very disappointed given that Casey Affleck has earned my respect for more than one film (Gone Baby Gone, The Assassination of Jesse James, Lonesome Jim) but I had heard bad things about the film, the gratuitous violence among the most prevalent, and was prepared to some degree. Now I’m not going to comment on I’m Still Here — I think I said it best in my review of that bombshell https://rorydean.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/im-still-here-2010-so-who-cares/ — so taking this film all by itself I am confident in saying this is a film you could spend the rest of your life not seeing.

      Kate Hudson and even Jessica Alba had moments, small ones, but even their performances were overshadowed by the violence without consequence or context.

  4. bridget says:

    I think you missed the point. This was a pulp fiction film, not the terantino film, but a film from a novel written in the 1950s and as far as I can tell it remains true to the format. You didn’t give Kate Hudson any credit, nor Jessica Alba who were much better than Affleck who is the same person in every film he does. I still have not forgiven him for that documentary he made with Pheonix. You don’t have to like this film but you have to appreciate it for what it is.

    • rorydean says:

      Hmmm. Curious take. I believe I read something about this elsewhere but I stand my ground. I think art of any medium should be allowed to exist without the artist or someone else explaining it to others or qualifying it because people react to it negatively. I didn’t like the film, period. It doesn’t make me ponder my original reaction nor does it give me pause simply because the film was based on a book or an era. I think books frequently make bad films, however in this case it doesn’t change my opinion that the film was poorly realized – not knowing how close or far it remained true to the novel. Thanks for your thoughts though. But I respectfully disagree.

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