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Crossing Over: “THE KILLER INSIDE ME” (2010)

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Welcome, FANGORIA Readers, to CROSSING OVER, our newest column that highlights the films, series and content out there outside of horror that is fashioned towards or pays tribute to our beloved genre. By shining a light onto these projects, FANGORIA hopes to open a world of entertainment perfect for fright fans that lies just beyond the borders of the horror community. So without further ado…

A good case could be made regarding THE KILLER INSIDE ME potentially falling into the horror film category. Of course, the things depicted in the film are truly and utterly horrific, and in some parts of the film, aren’t much different than some serial killer films that are firmly rooted in the genre. Furthermore, THE KILLER INSIDE ME feels too contemplative and provocative to fall under the subgenre of “thriller,” instead using suspense and brutality as opposite ends of the same coin. And yet the film doesn’t quite stick to genre conventions or the exploitative nature of its subject matter long enough to be considered horror, at least when compared to more straightforward and less stylized fare such as KILLER JOE or DARK TOURIST.

Perhaps it’s how unflinching the film is in regards to its subject matter that makes THE KILLER INSIDE ME more towards dramatic or crime film as opposed to outright horror. Accusations of the film having a mean misogyny streak may be aggrandized, as the film never feels to frame or posit the multiple uncompromising scenes of violence against women as entertaining or sympathetic. However, considering how long director Michael Winterbottom stays on the abuse, it’s easy to see why one might get that idea, and even easier to see why the film works as a disturbing look into the mind of a sociopath. But while the film does have a fair share of style, particularly when it comes to the time period in which the film exists, rarely is that style applied in a way to emphasize the horror of the more violent and visceral scenes, instead letting the uncomfortable, real-time performances and staging provide the horror instead.

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Winterbottom, not the filmmaker to play it safe, juxtaposes a lot of intentionally disorienting and contradictory scenes throughout THE KILLER INSIDE ME, which helps drive home the theme of duality in the film. While the film has many sex scenes and nudity, the film rarely- if ever- feels erotic, instead portraying the sexuality as either therapeutic, sadomasochistic or preventative; in fact, the only time we see our lead character Lou Ford in any type of pleasure, it’s when he’s in a full-on violent rage. While much of this comes from Jim Thompson’s novel, Winterbottom brings it all to life with a cold, distant and objective eye on the proceedings that feels completely intentional.

THE KILLER INSIDE ME also works on the part of an impressive cast, although the eerie anchor of the film is none other than Casey Affleck as Ford. While Affleck has played some sociopathic characters in the past, Lou Ford really takes advantage of Affleck’s boyish looks and unassuming facade, allowing his descent into darkness and depravity feel all the more organic and terrifying. Furthermore, Affleck brings a very specific physicality to the role, which unfortunately is best seen during his violent scenes; his moves are deliberate and calculated, nearly robotic at times, which further emphasizes the character’s startling obsession with control. However, Affleck’s psychopathic performance also hinges on those he’s acting opposite, with the masochistic-to-a-fault prositute played by Jessica Alba and the needful/concerned wife played by Kate Hudson offering a believable and multi-dimensional foil to Affleck’s uneasy and perpetually scorned villain.

Overall, THE KILLER INSIDE ME is not an easy film to watch, and is definitely disturbing enough to warrant the fascination of those who choose to hunt down the more unsettling offerings of the horror genre. While it doesn’t hold a candle to the exploitative and gory fare of ’70s underground horror or pure shock value nonsense, the film’s dead-eyed depiction of violence and sadism is more terrifying than most anything a studio horror flick will touch upon. But what separates THE KILLER INSIDE ME from comparable serial killer fare is that, even though it’s a well-made and engulfing movie, it’s far from entertaining; it’s dark, it’s frigid and if you’re looking for a redeemable killer with a soul, look elsewhere.

About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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