To date, Killing Me marks the third film from 531 Productions that I have reviewed. Between director Henry Weintraub and his frequent actor/collaborator Patrick O’Driscoll, this duo has produced two independent films that I would consider to be classics within the independent genre-film scene. Melvin and The Darker Corner of Paradise were both reviewed by me here on Rogue Cinema, and both films received very well-deserved praise. It has been two years since The Darkest Corner of Paradise graced the magazine, but as soon as I found out that Killing Me was one of their productions, my ears immediately perked up. Weintraub has become a progressively better filmmaker with each project, and his persistent level of quality can always be counted on. However, as he refines his skills, it seems that Weintraub is beginning to develop a more unique voice as a filmmaker. While this movie certainly has its issues, as the majority of independent films always will, Killing Me turns out to be a smart and terribly morbid little comedy that is certain to entertain its target audience.
Killing Me is a black comedy that tells the story of Aaron Schwartz (Patrick O’Driscoll) who is desperate to find his own slice of fame. Unfortunately, Aaron is under the impression that his fame and notoriety will someday come in the form of serial murder. Aaron spends his days fantasizing about being a known killer, but he can’t seem to actually go through with any of his plans. As time goes by, his dreams begin to take a backseat as he settles down and marries a lovely young woman named Erin. The couple are doing well, but then Aaron hears the news about a local serial killer who is currently stalking his home town. With this revelation, Aaron begins his search for the mysterious killer. If he can find this homicidal madman, then perhaps he can learn his secrets.
O’Driscoll puts in a performance that is totally unlike anything else he has done for 531 Productions. This actor seems to get better with every project, and Killing Me stands out as his most in-depth character yet. He finds a nice balance between the humor from the script and also the creepy side of this macabre character. The plot is generally quite morbid, and O’Driscoll brings out the dark nature of his character with ease. Although he appears to be mentally weak, the character does not come across as being pathetic. Aaron comes across as very determined and yet quite bitter on the inside, and it helps form a character that is tangible despite his eccentricities. Some of the acting within the cast could very well be a bit on the stiff side, but it is still a step above many of the films that I have discovered on the independent circuit. Some of this is intentional, as these characters are putting on a false “face” for society, but other times it seems more difficult to forgive.
The movie is certainly chock full of ideas. During the second half of the film, Aaron is essentially put through a serial-killer bootcamp. This segment, along with the inevitable twists and turns during the third act, comprise some of the wittiest moments of the film. There’s a segment where the villainous killer who begins to trade Aaron passes off the information that he may want to buy a couple of different locks and dead bolts so that he can practice cracking the locks in his downtime. As many movies as I have seen throughout the years, I can’t recall one movie that detailed the training required to properly pull off a professional home invasion. This sequence is both entertaining, despite the disturbing content, and smart enough to put this movie into a bracket entirely on its own. It takes a while for our characters to get to the rampage towards the finale, but when this “rampage” does come, it turns out to be a trip into a very dangerous and subversive world. Although there’s definitely a certain amount of black humor involved in the film, this is certainly a moment of true transgressive cinema. These scenes aren’t entirely brutal because of their violence, but more for their ideas and what they ask their audience to imagine. That is part of the power that this movie genuinely has.
Killing Me turns out to be a bit of a satire as well as an examination of the horror genre in general. As a satire, it pointedly makes fun of multiple aspects of American culture. The lead character, Aaron, would work out as a perfect pawn for Tyler Durden. A young man who is convinced that his entire life will turn out as worthless if he doesn’t somehow become a part of pop culture. In the world of this movie, television hosts are updated via the FBI’s twitter account, and the main focus of news-programming is on a kid who shares a name that sounds similar to a young popstar who is obviously a takeoff on Justin Bieber. This world is a hyper stylized version of our reality, and we can all identify with this need for a legacy, because it has been infused in our DNA as Americans. The film also makes light of the American obsession with serial killers, something that most genre fans might also be guilty of. In a world where serial killers have death row proposals and birthday gifts delivered to them, we must realize that there is something definitively wrong with our culture. Killing Me, for all of its fun silliness, is also an examination of these problems. As an examination of the horror genre, Killing Me also points out many of the expectations that film-go’ers generally have when approaching these movies. The sarcastic voice over from O’Driscoll puts this film firmly in its place. Similar to the french faux-documentary Man Bites Dog, the viewer is examined as much as the characters who are displayed on screen.
It goes without saying that I highly recommend Killing Me. The Weintraub/O’Driscoll combination has delivered in dividends, and this feature shows the duo firing on all cylinders. Search this one out, and if you want to read more about the film you can visit the official 531 Productions website located here: http://www.531productions.com