Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Film Round-Up #16

I'm not sure why but I've always enjoyed watching serial killer films. It's a bit weird given my aversion to horror films, but 'normal' serial killers? That's just fine by me. I have of course seen the most famous ones such as Seven, Natural Born Killers, the Lecter films etc, but I recently decided it was time to watch some new ones (well, new to me at least). Here, consequently, are the wondrous titles I selected:

God Bless America (2011)

I hadn't heard of this one prior to this feature but I now get the feeling it's one that a lot of people might be able to relate to, myself included. It stars Joel Murray as a seemingly normal salesman, but one who has become sick with the state of American society. Upon receiving several bits of bad news in quick succession, he decides he has nothing left to lose and goes on a killing spree, soon finding himself joined by a like-minded schoolgirl (Tara Lynne Barr). Their targets? Bratty 'reality' TV stars, disruptive cinema patrons, bad parkers, and all the other kinds people that they (and I, and no doubt many of you too) so despise sharing the world with. Okay, so maybe killing them is a little extreme but how many of us haven't felt like doing something similar at least once in our lives? As you might've guessed, it was intended as a black comedy, and it is indeed mighty amusing to people with a mildly twisted sense of humour like me. Murray and Barr are both great in their roles, as are most of their targets I suppose since they are indeed annoying, and their quest is a very satisfying one for anyone with a similar outlook on life and society. Is it too much to call it cinematic wish-fulfilment? ... 8/10

Frailty (2002)

Slightly more serious is this thriller which stars (and was also directed by) Bill Paxton as a normal, hard-working single father with two sons. It's told in flashbacks by one of them (Matthew McConaughey) who is confessing all to a sceptical FBI agent (Powers Boothe). As the tale unfolds we're told that all was well until one night their father claimed to have been visited by an angel and tasked by God with destroying demons disguised as human beings. He tells his sons about this and while one believes him and even starts assisting, the other does not and is very reluctant to have any part in the killing of what he believes to be perfectly normal, decent people, putting him at odds with not just his father but his brother as well. It's certainly a dark story, even a little disturbing, but Paxton is superb in his role at the head of the small cast, and impresses perhaps even more in his measured direction. It's remarkably composed for a debut work, with the story taking several unexpected turns before arriving at a memorable conclusion. Perhaps not a serial-killer film in the traditional sense but a gripping film all the same... 8/10

Mr. Brooks (2007)

Kevin Costner's presence was the main thing that drew me to this one, or more specifically, the rare instance of him apparently playing a bad guy. He plays the wealthy, successful, respected businessman of the title who harbours a sinister secret - he's addicted to murdering people! This addiction is sated by night, sticking to a meticulous routine after carefully choosing his victims. However, during his latest job he makes a mistake, having been spotted by a neighbour (Dane Cook) who's an aspiring killer himself. His price for keeping quiet is for Mr. Brooks to take him on as his protege, and while this is going on, a determined detective (Demi Moore) is closing in. Oof! It might sound rather by-the-numbers, and it is in some ways, but it's enjoyable seeing Costner in this kind of role, especially seeing him squirm as his enforced protege cramps his style, and his exchanges with his psychological alter ego (a superb William Hurt), who's always egging him on to kill again, are superb. It's nice to see Demi Moore again too. It's not a stunning film by any means but it's good fun and the ending is satisfying enough... 7/10

Serial Mom (1994)

I guess this one is a bit of an oldie compared to the rest of the list but I enjoyed it back in its day so I figured I'd give it a rewatch. It is of course a comedic/satirical slant on the genre featuring Kathleen Turner as the titular 'mom' - on the surface a happy, devoted 'soccer mom', but is secretly also a serial killer, offing anyone who does her or her family wrong, no matter how trivial the 'offence' might be. She doesn't have a standard MO either, instead using whatever tools might happen to be nearby, from her car to a fire poker, and it's this as well as her abrupt change from happy smiling mom to snarling murderess that causes much of the mirth. That's if you're prone to finding such things amusing to start with of course, and I sure am when it's done this well. There's not much in the way of story or character development, unsurprisingly, but Turner is brilliant and appears to have a lot of fun in the role. It was good fun to see it again after all this time too. It has dated a little, obviously, but most of the jokes are still funny, particularly the ridiculous final act, and it's surprisingly gory in places... 7/10

Surveillance (2008)

And lastly we come to another I hadn't heard of before researching the genre a little, prior to writing this feature. It stars Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond as a pair of FBI agents who arrive in a dusty rural Nebraskan town to investigate a series of violent killings, the only survivors of which are at the local sheriff's office - a young girl, a cokehead, and a traumatised cop who lost his partner in the most recent bloodbath. Much of the ensuing investigation involves interviews at the station and resultant flashbacks, including examples of how the idiotic cops spend their days (shooting out the tyres of passing motorists, then scaring them by acting crazy). The two leads are pretty good, and it's always great to see Michael Ironside (who plays the sheriff), but I was a bit disappointed by this one to be honest. It's hard to care about any of the characters, especially knowing in advance who survived and who didn't, and I saw the plot twist coming a mile off. I guess it's worth catching on Netflix or something if you see it but that's all. It's directed by David Lynch's daughter though, if you're interested... 5/10


  1. Serial Mom a fave of mine, increds its based on true events :( Wasn't aware of GBA or Frailty, so these are being added to the list cheers!

  2. Are you sure SM is based on true events? I can't find much info. I think you'll enjoy GBA anyway - I sure did!