Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Some Guy Who Kills People (2011)

Warning: here be rather large, yet unavoidable spoilers.

After having spent time in a mental institution (or loony bin, as he and everyone else how ever was in one calls it) to help him get over his suicidal depression, Ken Boyd (Kevin Corrigan) walks through his life with the shell-shocked expression of somebody neither able nor willing to take the risk of actually beginning to live again. Ken has moved back in with his - deadpanning and sarcastic - mother (Karen Black, truly delightfully deadpan) and works in the local ice cream parlour, where he frequently has to take on the undignified job of dressing up as an ice cream cone. His life is pretty horrible, but at least nothing is happening in it.

That is, until Ken's eleven years old daughter Amy (Ariel Gade, who actually manages to be as charming as the script wants her to be, no mean feat in the nightmare world of child actors) steps into his life. Amy's the product of a one-week-relationship, and until now, her mother was able to pretend her father just disappeared. However, once happenstance leads Amy to the truth, the girl decides to get to know her father, if he thinks he's too much of a fuck-up to be one or not. Amy decides to move in with Ken for a week, and she sure isn't going to take no for an answer.

Spending time with Amy slowly opens up something in Ken, and with the girl's encouragement, he even begins dating British ex-pat Stephanie (Lucy Davis, still orange).

However, while all this has been going on, the small town Ken lives in has been hit by a series of murders. The victims are all major pricks, and, though the Sheriff (Barry Bostwick, just as deadpan as Black) - who just happens to be the boyfriend of Ken's Mum - doesn't realize it for quite some time, were once involved in a flashback-inducing traumatic event for Ken. In fact, there's a lot the Sheriff doesn't know that implicates Ken to the audience as a serial killer, and soon enough, Amy will have to share our point of view.

Colour me confused, for Some Guy Who Kills People was made by Jack Perez, the director and writer of Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus and other crap, yet it is actually pretty darn good. It's a clear demonstration of the fact that putting one's heart into a movie leads to much better results than putting in self-serving irony.

Not that Some Guy is free of irony or humour, it being a comedy and all, but this is not the sort of film that points at itself and shouts "Look how crap I am! Now laugh at me!". Most of the film's humour is of a rather more deadpan type that is in my mind part of the US indie movie tradition. It's the sort of humour that points out the absurdity of the situation the characters are in, and finds the funny in the quiet horribleness of Ken's life, but never stoops to making fun of people's pain. And there's a lot of pain to go around, for Some Guy's greatest strength is the quiet and honest way it shows its characters' unhappiness. There are no big dramatic break-downs, instead, Corrigan's stooped shoulders, and Gade's often a bit too ready smile are all the Perez needs to demonstrate how his characters are feeling for most of the running time.

However, Some Guy isn't only a film out to explain how much life sucks, but also one willing to suggest that yes, it might get better. I'm nearly tempted to use the word "heart-warming" like some of my more courageous movie-loving peers do when talking about the film, if that particular word didn't suggest a kitschiness neither Perez' quiet and unassuming film nor the nuanced performances of the cast have anything to do with.

Ironically, given my general tastes and unflinching pretend-cynicism (surely, I've never cried while watching Doctor Who), it's the film's horror part I find the least convincing. For one, I'm not sure if Ken's and Amy's story actually needs the serial killer plot at all, and while it certainly isn't anathema to the rest of the film, that aspect of the movie also feels a bit superfluous. It sure doesn't help that the film's indictment of Ken for the murders does not really play fair with the audience, showing things to make us think Ken really is the killer that don't seem believable anymore once we know he isn't.

On the other hand, the serial killer plot is so minor in its impact compared with the interplay between the main characters that its lack of success doesn't pull down the film too far. It may be keeping Some Guy Who Kills People from being a perfect film, yet it still is highly recommended one.

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