Last night, my wife and I sat down and watched a little film together called The Killer Inside Me. Overall, I’ll admit it was a pretty well-done film. There were some good performances, the setting (1950’s Texas) was well-captured, it featured some interesting characters, and the protagonist himself was one of the better-drawn (albeit a little over the top) portrayals I’ve seen of a sociopath on film, right up there with old Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men. Yet, there was something that bothered me deeply about this movie. The weak female characters were really not too much of a surprise, and I can almost give the filmmakers a pass on that because they were staying true to the source material of the novel. That whole 50’s and 60’s noir style of pulp crime fiction isn’t really known for strong female characters, after all. So, that wasn’t it. Part of it, I guess, but it wasn’t exactly what bothered me, anyway. What bothered me the most was one (extremely long) scene in which the protagonist literally beats a female character into a coma directly after sharing a love scene with her. That one scene turned an interesting crime story into pure torture porn.
Now, I’m used to a certain level of violence in movies. I grew up watching slasher films and zombie movies. I even enjoyed the first Saw movie and Rob Zombie’s trashy weird modern western horror flicks. I’ve seen Braindead a few times. Violence and sex on film, especially in horror movies, is something I’m kind of immune to. So why did this scene bother me so much? I seriously couldn’t watch the scene. I ended up fast-forwarding through much of it (it was that long!). It made my wife – who worked for many years as a trauma/burn nurse in a high profile trauma unit – extremely uncomfortable, too. Why did it bother us? Well, I guess because it was all too real. It was also all too gratuitous. It disturbed me that the filmmakers, that everyone involved in this movie, thought this scene was a good idea. It simply wasn’t necessary, and it glorified the violence. Also, there was this whole thing in a few scenes with a couple different women where the protagonist would beat a woman, the woman would be a little scared, then he’d touch her, and they’d just melt as he forced himself on the woman. I know that’s probably just being faithful to the source material, but seriously, is this a realistic and/or responsible depiction of how women really are? No! The world in this film is one that shows rape as a desired norm for women. I know it’s been done before in films like Straw Dogs, but Straw Dogs was at least making a point, and whether you like director Peckingpah’s point or not, in Straw Dogs he used his rape scene as a representation of something else: it was a metaphor relating to the protagonist’s masculinity. I found no real, deeper meaning to the gratuitous scenes of raping and beating women in The Killer Inside Me. You know, I’m no scholar of women’s studies, but even this country boy Southern Fried Weirdo found this to be in seriously poor taste and highly irresponsible. Besides, whatever happened to subtlety when it comes to filmmaking? Seriously.
So, while The Killer Inside Me was a good story and a decent portrait of a sociopath, I have to give this movie a big whopping 0 beers on my six-pack rating system. That’s the first time I’ve ever rated a movie so low. It’s a shame, too. If you cut out the gratuitous and unnecessary beating scene and the equally gratuitous rape scenes, it would earn a solid 4 out of 6 Coors. Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend it except as an example of how not to portray women on film, unless you want to offend every woman in the audience (and quite a few of the men as well). Too bad, really. It could have been very, very good.
Also, just so you know, this week’s Southern Fried Short is now posted. It is a reprint of my story, “Bubbles”, that first appeared in Issue #2 of Sand: A Journal of Strange Tales: http://southernfriedshorts.blogspot.com/2010/10/bubbles.html.