Killer Party


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Killer Party
"The violence and heavy helpings of gore are balanced by humour that is dark but exuberant."

Since the Forties, the figure of the serial killer has loomed large in popular cinema and in the popular imagination, gradually coming to be credited with all sorts of special powers. Such people - usually men - are presented as more intelligent than their peers, fitter, stronger and in many cases more sophisticated (or more pretentious, depending on one's point of view). The hideous mutant ones aside, they're assumed t be better looking or at least more charming, easily seducing potential victims. Feared yet admired as they are, and unencumbered by empathy or conventional morality, it might be hard to imagine why anyone would want to give up such a life, until one remembers one thing: they get caught.

A life driven by compulsion will always have its downside. It's difficult to enjoy other things like family and career if there's always that risk that the police will come calling, and like another addictive habits, killing may be fun at the time but requires a lot of tedious cleaning up afterwards if one is to avoid trouble. We know that in real life a significant number of sociopaths choose to try and live by society's rules for this sort of reason. Chris von Hoffmann's film introduces us to a group of seasoned serial killers who are trying to go straight. This is the third anniversary of their work together. They're celebrating at a dinner hosted by Roxanne (Robin Tunney), who has been 'sober', as she puts it, for seven years. It's just bad luck that the teenage caterers, who know nothing of the nature of the gathering and are taking the opportunity to case the joint, happen to trigger feelings best left buried.

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One of the classic difficulties presented by the serial killer film lies in making the prospective victims - usually wide-eyed young innocents - as interesting to watch as the killer. When the victims are in the minority, that's even tougher. In the circumstances, von Hoffman does a pretty good job of developing the personalities of the teenagers and building up their backstories. Iris (Virginia Gardner) and Dodge (Brandon Micheal Hall) are minimum wage kids in a relationship and dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. Their best friend Casper (Sam Strike) is desperate to save the life of his gambling addict father who is in debt to local mobsters. The young actors are sufficiently hard working to make us care about them and at least retain some interest up against the seasoned older stars having a glorious time as the predators. The only problem is that the less outré character development takes more time and sometimes weighs the film down, robbing it of energy.

A film built around this pretext could easily have turned into a luvvie movie full of people who ought to know better showing off at the expense of the story, but von Hoffmann keeps a tight rein on proceedings and the result is considerably better that one might expect. Despite the first death setting off a chain reaction that gradually sees the whole event descend into chaos, the narrative remains controlled, and playful genre nods are not used as substitutes for coherent storytelling, though they may leave viewers without much genre background curious about what seem to be non-sequiturs. The violence and heavy helpings of gore are balanced by humour that is dark but exuberant. The family dynamic in Roxanne's household would make for a great sitcom and the awkwardness of very personal arguments taking place in front of guests nicely complements the more vicious displays.

Though there's nothing here that's likely to really wow the viewer, Killer Party is an appealingly silly idea that's nicely fleshed out and delivered with sufficient confidence to facilitate the suspension of disbelief. Watched with friends late at night - preferably in a large house in the middle of nowhere - it will be a lot of fun. Just don't try to eat your dinner whilst watching it.

Reviewed on: 22 May 2019
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Killer Party packshot
Three young people set out to case a house that happens to be hosting a party for serial killers who are trying to overcome their addiction.

Director: Chris von Hoffmann

Writer: Chris von Hoffmann

Starring: Sam Strike, Virginia Gardner, Brandon Micheal Hall, Kian Lawley, Erin Moriarty, Robin Tunney, Julian McMahon

Year: 2019

Runtime: 89 minutes

Country: US


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