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Vanguard Cinema presents
Killer Me (2001)

"Maybe you should help me choose my next pet. The ones I choose always seem to die right away."
- Anna (Christina Kew)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: May 12, 2004

Stars: George Foster, Christina Kew
Other Stars: Kirk B.R. Woller, Garth Wilton, Teigh McDonough, Kass Connors
Director: Zachary Hansen

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence)
Run Time: 01h:19m:23s
Release Date: July 29, 2003
UPC: 658769330137
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Zachary Hansen's Killer Me is another of those small indies that wants to take us into the head of a serial killer, or at least that's what the tagline promises. Things are less linear here than you might expect, and despite the inevitable comparisons to genre classics like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Hansen's film takes a more unmetered approach to telling the story of a violence-prone man who hears voices in his head. The narrative structure is purposely off-balance, and as a result we're never sure if what we're watching is real, a dream, or some bizarre combination.

The discordant storytelling here is where Killer Me plays out like one long, bad dream, as we follow Joseph (George Foster), a wiry DeNiro-as-Travis-Bickle loner whose head may or may not be filled with disembodied chatter and violent imagery. He does wield a straight razor pretty well (we at least know that for sure), and his solitary lifestyle is flipped sideways when he develops an awkward romantic relationship with the mousy Anna (Christina Kew), who is in his criminology class.

For all of the shifty and effective visual and sound techniques employed by Hansen to give his film a properly disturbing undertone, it is really Foster and Kew who make Killer Me such an engaging piece of work. Foster gives Joseph the uncomfortable social skills of a Travis Bickle, and he gives off a believable mixture of rage and indifference. His first date with Anna, which ends with him vomiting violently in a restaurant men's room, are small bits of a tempered performance that over time add up to one woefully confused character. Like so many brief moments in Killer Me, when he confesses a series of murders to a police detective we're not sure if it really happened at all, and when the scene dissolves into Joseph staring at a television tuned to static we're even more unsure.

Kew is adorably nervous and shy as Anna, at least until the final act of the film when she seems to toughen up a bit. Though I was never sure why she was so attracted to the brooding, unapproachable Joseph, I especially enjoyed her attempts at making small talk; this is the kind of dialogue that is the toughest to deliver naturally, which Kew does very well, and, watching her, it is kind of hard to believe this was her first and only film role.

The less said about the plot specifics the better, but it is important that you don't go into Killer Me expecting all of the questions raised about Joseph or his relationship with Anna to be answered neatly, and tied with a bow by the time the credits roll, because if you do you will likely be extremely disappointed. This a purposely ambiguous film that requires the viewer to pay close attention, and perhaps fill in some of the cracks themselves.

Personally, I welcome that level of open-ended interpretation and involvement from time to time.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Originally shot on 16mm before being blown up to 35mm for the festival circuit, this nonanamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen transfer shows the expected grain, as well as a few scratches and nicks. Image detail is decent, with some scenes tending to look a little soft. Black levels are a tad too muddy, with the overall color palette on the subdued side, though some of which I suspect are for intended dramatic effect (as with the more oversaturated dream sequences).

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Vanguard has issued Killer Me with an effectively subtle and minimalistic 5.1 Dolby Digital surround track. The rears don't get used too often, but the front channels convey the woozy and unsettling score well (created by Hansen on one of the Fisher Price PXL2000 pixel cameras), which is really where this presentation excels. Small, creepy moments like the voices Joseph hears in his head are very, very clear. Standard dialogue between characters is clean and hiss-free, though lacking any substantial directional imaging.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 8 cues
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Zachary Hansen, Neil Fredericks
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Writer/director Zachary Hansen and cinematographer Neil Fredericks provide a full-length, scene-specific commentary track, and the pair discuss a lot of technical elements in great detail, such as the varying film stocks used and how and when a hand-held camera was employed to create more of an "emotional edge" for the viewer. Both Hansen and Fredericks have a laid-back rapport, and though the energy level of the track is fairly low-key, the content is interesting from a technical standpoint. This may be one of the only commentary tracks I've ever heard where the director has to stop momentarily to scold his bunny Bob for chewing on something.

There are also three brief Deleted Scenes, running just over a total of four minutes in length. Two of the scenes are essentially re-edited and/or extended versions of ones in the finished film, and one features Christina Kew making a futile call to a police detective.

The back cover promises something called "Zachary Hansen's Shorts," but they're nowhere to be found on the DVD. The disc is cut into a meager eigth chapters, which is a little sparse for an 80-minute film.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Killer Me doesn't play by conventional movie storytelling rules, and as such it's unlikely to have to much mass appeal. Too bad for those mass appeal types, because Zachary Hansen's unsettling little serial killer film is anchored by a pair of watchable performances from George Foster and Christina Kew, who play wonderfully off of each other.

At some point I didn't really care what happened because I just liked watching them together.



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