October 10, 2008 (Spain)
Macarena Gómez as Bárbara/Sexykiller
Ángel de Andrés López as Inspector
César Camino as Tomás
Alejo Sauras as Alex
By James “Crypticpsych” Lasome
“Do you know what’s wrong with the serial killer world? It’s full of sexism. But that… is over.” -Bárbara
Bárbara (Gomez, who the culty among us might remember as the mermaid Uxia Cambarro in Dagon) is a med student at the Jorge A. Romero Institute (heh). She collects Barbie dolls, is highly fashionable, and… oh yeah… is a serial killer. She’s quite proud of it too and spends the first third of the movie (a serial killer story that would probably make a great double feature with How To Be A Serial Killer) breaking the fourth wall discussing her lifestyle, showing off her past, and basically making her philosophy on life known to a guy who she’s threatening to kill for running over her dog while on her way to a party. At one point in a flashback, a teacher asks if he’s allowed to know who’s she’s talking to to which she responds “The camera”. Through this, she creates a character both psychotic and charming that the audience immediately latches onto as she talks about her mother, riffs on her version of Cosmopolitan magazine (that would have a lot more murder-themed articles), takes vengeance on a particularly bad (and utterly hilarious) night of sex, and does a variety of comedic things during her kills (like eating popcorn while the sexual partner flails about to his doom).
Meanwhile, two forensics students, Tomás and Alex (Camino and Sauras), are getting pulled into the investigation into Bárbara’s murders around the campus by an overbearing, obsessive Police Inspector (López) who’s not above murder himself to protect the case. Tomás has also invented a complex “neural impulse translator” in his dormitory that he can use to read people’s minds. Alex, by testing it on a dead rat, discovers it can also be used to read the last thoughts of the dead. Unfortunately, Alex (and earlier, the Inspector) runs afoul of Bárbara in a scene that begins with a brilliant riff on Scream (subbing Friday the 13th for Silence of the Lambs and flipping the script). Tomás vows to find his killer using the machine on Bárbara’s victims to see if any of them saw their killer before they died.
That would be enough. But SexyKiller actually gets better by seamlessly dovetailing in its second third into a deeply twisted dark romantic comedy. Tomás and Bárbara fall in love through a misunderstanding in which she thinks he’s a serial killer as well… and he blindly misses the obvious clues to her own nature that she drops in conversation and action. The relationship escalates more and more and will culminate at the Halloween costume party Bárbara was on her way to before the aforementioned guy ran over her dog. Unbeknownst to her, however, Tomás’s machine doesn’t just read the minds of the dead… it also raises them from the dead. And while they retain their human traits at first, they soon regress… and in the final third of SexyKiller, a riff on zombie movies, they head out to try and get their vengeance on their killer.
What makes Sexykiller so brilliant is how deftly it handles an amazing number of references and in-jokes, both horror and otherwise. This is a short list of film and non-film references this movie features: Scream, Re-Animator, Romero films, Carrie, Taxi Driver, Titanic, Crocodile Dundee,Silence of the Lambs, and Barbie dolls. Not a one of them falls like a lead weight or seems out of place. In addition, SexyKiller’s own comedy and riffs on the genre almost all work to perfection. Some particularly memorable examples include a teacher and student Bárbara murdered in the middle of sex who come back to life… and proceed to attempt to have sex again, and a sequence where the zombies advance on Bárbara and she shoots one in the head. When this doesn’t stop him, she basically realizes that not all guys have brains in their heads… and kills him by shooting him in the crotch. This is, of course, not to mention the relationship between Tomás and Bárbara itself which is one of the most charming, bizarre and dysfunctionally hilarious relationships I’ve ever seen in a movie. There’s even some effective light social commentary thrown in that riffs on media glamorization of violence..
The kills in SexyKiller are darkly hilarious (primarily through Bárbara’s lines during them) with a bewildering array of weapons used to dispense the death, destruction, and mayhem including various knives and swords, a sawed-off shotgun, a car trunk, a stiletto heel, and a pool cue. Visually, the movie is filmed in a very unique style throughout from the bloodsoaked opening credits on and runs the gamut from psychedelic trips into Bárbara’s mind to an infomercial styled lead-in to a murder. The viewer is pulled in from the moment the movie starts. Even the soundtrack is well done, blending general atmospherics with the obligatory though not unwelcome “Barbie Girl” and the perfectly used “Surfin’ Bird”.
If I had any complaints, first, it seems the Inspector really serves no full purpose in SexyKiller in terms of the plot and could’ve just been cut out as a character to almost no ill effect. Another problem might be that, while it’s true the transitions in plot are very seamless and there’s no real detriment to flow when one goes from serial killer to dark rom-com to zom-com, it is also true that Bárbara feels like she takes a little bit of a backseat in that still-good third portion making it seem a little flat when compared to the better-handled first two thirds.
Both those complaints are small potatoes, however, when taken with the whole of this brilliantly funny, smart, and tongue-firmly-in-cheek film. It’s a crime that SexyKiller has not yet been picked up for American distribution on DVD, nor has it gotten a release in this country beyond festival play. If you live in the UK though, you can definitely get a hold of it as a Region 2 DVD has been released. Maybe if we threatened to unleash Bárbara on DVD distributors or the heads of American film companies, we’d see the Sexykiller rampage on our shores too.