Kate attends her estranged sister's bachelorette party at the request of their dying father. The weekend, held at a remote cabin booked on a home sharing app, turns into a savage life-or-death struggle that pits family against family, and past against present.
Indecision in life – it can be annoying. Sometimes it can be debilitating.
Indecision in filmmaking? Well, if you’re an audience member on the receiving end of a writer or director’s wishy-washiness – that makes for a less than perfect screening experience.
Such is the case with the new horror/comedy Killer Kate!, which recently held its Los Angeles premiere at the 18th Annual Shriekfest Horror/Sci-Fi Film Festival.
Kate (producer Alexandra Feld) and her estranged, younger sister Angie (Danielle Burgess) are begrudgingly reuniting for Angie’s bachelorette party. They’ve rented an “LAbnb” in a rural area for the weekend. Along for the party are Angie’s work friends, Sara (Amaris Davidson) and Mel (Abby Eiland). What is meant to be a relaxing weekend and hopefully a happy reunion for the two sisters – is interrupted by a bumbling group of killers, intent on murdering the girls – for reasons which will not be revealed here.
So let’s start the discussion with that “indecision” issue.
The film is a comedy. It sets itself up for that right away. Thus, that particular dark comic tone is sort of what I anticipated.
But when we first meet Kate and get a sense of the family turmoil she has tried to leave behind, the performances, dialogue and tone – are not at all humorous. In fact, I was immediately intrigued with the mood that was set. I was interested to know more about Kate. The introduction of her father (Larry Cedar) and the subsequent awkward reunion with Angie – made me believe that I was in for a detailed, potentially fascinating character study.
The introductions are that well done. Why, even the dynamic between the four party attendees, made me nod my head in appreciation. In my head, I was thinking, “These are real people. I can’t wait to see how these authentic characters tackle whatever dangers might lie ahead.”
But once the film moves into “stalk-n-slash” territory, it loses all credibility.
The film cuts back and forth between the four women and the – what are basically a play on “keystone cops” – criminal contingent of the film. There is absolutely nothing in these criminal scenes played for anything other than dunder-headed goofiness. There’s nothing genuine present here.
So you can imagine going back and forth from two very different tones – that is until the sequences with the ladies follow suit – and turn into over-the-top, pseudo-exploitation caricatures.
I don’t get it.
The score from John E. Hopkins is fine, but it’s cashing in on the already-run-its-course ‘80s synthesizer nostalgia. Being an ‘80s movie aficionado, I never thought I’d live to see the day that I’d say this, but let’s move on from the constant call-outs to that particular musical era. And on top of that, the film is set in the present day, so that style doesn’t really serve any purpose to the film as a whole.
The film’s big revelation, preceded by the uber-cliche question from the protagonist, “Why are you doing this?” – was some sort of attempt at social humor, but it did nothing but fall flat. And even if it were to have been sort of interesting – the ridiculousness of it didn’t jive with the seriousness of the family relationships already explored.
Production-wise, I had a few issues. The gore/make-up effects could have been carried out with a bit more panache, and some of the “scary” sequences were so bright, they created absolutely zero suspense or tension. There’s even a basement scene of Kate investigating the house. She picks up a flashlight to explore, but the basement is so well lit, you can see the back wall – which is several yards behind her. No mystery there.
Otherwise, most of the technical components, including camerawork and editing – were all pretty good.
I did have a question. At one point, Kate’s face is sprayed with blood. And for the rest of the film (which must have been a nightmare for the continuity folks), she allows the smeared blood to remain. Just for the sake of the filmmakers’ sanity, why didn’t the character use the adjoining bathroom of the bedroom where they were hiding out – to clean herself up?
The film’s humor never quite hits its mark. Of note in the “almost” category – the pizza delivery guy’s brief appearance and also the clear homage to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – as one of the criminals (Grant Lyon) debates with himself about his next action (think Cameron Frye’s, “I’ll go, I’ll go, I’ll go” argument), while sitting in a car. This scene went on forever and served no purpose but to try for an audience laugh.
I didn’t laugh.
Not that Lyon provided a bad performance. I found his character sort of goofy and endearing (perhaps better placed in another film). And overall, I liked the performances from the entire cast. But again – think of how powerful the work of these actors could have been – if the story they were telling and the dialogue they were speaking – would have been more focused.
Frankly, Killer Kate! feels like a missed opportunity. I was genuinely ready to follow the journey of these two sisters. But on that note – there never was a proper explanation of why the women became estranged in the first place. It didn’t necessarily need it – things like this happen in families all of the time. But for the sake of storytelling, a bit more history would have done wonders – if indeed their relationship had remained the focus of the film.
Finally, busy horror actress Tiffany Shepis appears in a supporting role as the only female in the group of bumbling bad guys.
Killer Kate! had me at the beginning, but because it couldn’t really make up its mind – I lost interest. It’s well-acted and well shot, but unless you’re the most brilliant writers and the most talented directors – making a multi-tonal film is almost impossible.
Case in point.
Killer Kate! is scheduled for a limited theatrical release on October 26th, 2018.