Review: Some Guy Who Kills People (2011)
Review by Ben Bussey
This is one of those reviews that seems a little arbitrary at this point. I’m half-tempted to just cut & paste Annie’s storming write-up from July and write ‘I concur’ at the bottom. Of course, that would not only be selling short the countless thousands upon thousands of Brutal As Hell readers who hang upon our every word (cough, ahem, etc.); it would also be selling short a film which most richly deserves the praise that has been heaped upon it from most corners this past year or so. That which at a glance seems unlikely to offer much (uninspiring title, generic premise, director best known for Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus) turns out to be something truly special; a horror comedy that not only packs blood and guts, but heart as well.
Yep, Some Guy Who Kills People really resonated with me. In order to fully explain why, I’m going to have to get into some spoilers. Well, maybe I don’t have to, but I’m going to. Don’t worry, I’ll warn you good and proper before I do so; if in doubt, don’t read further than the big scary picture below, and/or read Annie’s spoiler-free review at the link above. In the meantime, without giving anything major away, here are the essentials:
Our hero, if we can call him that, is Ken (Kevin Corrigan), a 34 year old who still lives with his mother. You’d be forgiven for thinking he’s the biggest loser alive; indeed, it seems Ken’s own self-assessment doesn’t stray too far from that. Stuck in a dead-end job at an ice-cream parlour – the only one he could get after a suicide attempt landed him a stint in a secure psychiatric hospital – Ken seems utterly disconnected with everything about his mundane existence, outside of one detail: his burning, murderous fixation on the jock scumbags whose sadistic bullying back at high school left him the shell of a man he is today. However, there may yet be a few little beacons of hope for Ken. There’s Irv (Leo Fitzpatrick), his co-worker and lifelong friend, who’s always believed Ken was capable of more; there’s Stephanie (Lucy Davies), a sweet but similarly fragile woman, who might just be the kindred spirit Ken needs; and then there’s Amy (Ariel Gade), the 11 year old daughter that Ken knew he had, but never had any contact with before now. Will any or all of these be enough to steer Ken off the path of bloody retribution..?
Like I said before, it’s a synopsis that might seem to promise one thing, but delivers something quite different. If you’re anticipating a bleak, nightmarish portrait of a tortured loner spiralling into insanity, you’ve come to the wrong room; Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac remake is just down the hall. While Ken’s situation is by no means sugar-coated, it’s certainly not all woe-is-me doom and gloom. Quite the contrary; this is a really, really funny film, writer Ryan A. Levin keeping proceedings steeped in droll acerbic wit without ever detracting from the drama. Ken’s emotional constipation leads to a fair few comical scenarios, but it doesn’t get into that painfully embarrassing, comedy of humiliation a la The Office; despite everything, Ken remains a loveable, highly relatable character. But the lion’s share of the laughs, as I’m certainly not the first and won’t be the last to remark, come from Barry Bostwick’s Sheriff Fuller. As both the man investigating the murders and also the man dating Ken’s mother (the also-hilarious Karen Black), his inability to put two and two together when it’s all right there under his nose is just hysterical. But again, don’t assume he’s another stereotype; this isn’t just another bumbling cop caricature, but a nuanced character, getting truly first-rate delivery at the hands of Bostwick (who, I confess, I would not have realised was the same guy who sang Damn It Janet all those years ago). Also keeping things far from gloomy are the kills. None of that oh-so-contemporary torture bollocks here: these deaths are swift, splattery and fun, much like old Mrs Voorhees & Son used to do ‘em.
And, as mentioned, there’s also a great deal of heart in this movie, and much of that comes through the notable female characters. Karen Black’s mother, while making no secret whatsoever of how exhausted she is with her son’s ineffectuality, clearly says every harsh word in the hope that he will grow stronger. As for Lucy Davies’ Stephanie: I’ve seen reviews that have criticised her character as being gratuitous, but I must strongly disagree. Oftentimes such female characters in films of this nature are indeed little more than window dressing, there to provide the male protagonist with something to reach for, and not a great deal else. By contrast, Stephanie is a fascinating character in her own right, just as wounded and alone as Ken is; she needs him as much as he needs her, and finds it every bit as awkward coming out of her shell. Subsequently she’s a great deal more three-dimensional than many ‘love interests’.
Then there’s Ariel Gade’s Amy. Hers is undoubtedly the most pivotal female part of all, and thank goodness they found so talented a young actress for it. As easily as it could have sunk into sentimentality, the interplay between Corrigan and Gade is natural, involving and refreshingly low on Jerry Maguire syrupiness. At the risk of getting myself reported to STFU Parents, I must say that, as a father myself, the core theme of finding new reason and purpose through parenthood really hit home. It’s an easy thing to mock (and I suspect some of the BaH staff are ready and waiting to do so), but I expect for many of us it really rings true, much as it will in a different way of Ken’s relationship with Stephanie. That mutual need, the bond of love – both romantic, and familial – can be a powerful redemptive force.
This, however, is not the only form redemption takes in Some Guy Who Kills People – but if I’m to discuss that, it means – you guessed it -
Spoilers to follow…
Right, you can’t say I didn’t warn you…
Some Guy Who Kills People not only celebrates the redemptive power of love, but also that of creative expression; more specifically, the creative outlet offered by horror. Yes, there’s a bit of a twist in the tale, one which some reviews have shamelessly given away without warning – and that is, though we don’t know it until the final scenes, Ken isn’t actually the killer. Just so I don’t go crazy spoilerific I’m not going to say who the killer really is, but I felt I needed to mention it here because of the reason Sheriff Fuller finds to exonerate Ken, in a moment of unexpected yet not uncharacteristic wisdom. See, Ken’s one largely secret talent is his tremendous skill as an artist. It was a high school comic book satirising the jocks which most provoked their wrath all those years ago, and the results of that surely played some role in Ken never pursuing artwork as a career; subsequently, he now draws only for himself, primarily graphic depictions of his imagined revenge. But the key word there is imagined. The Sheriff recognises that this vivid, gruesome artwork is where Ken gets out his rage: that he is a creator, not a killer.
I should think this won’t be a lesson lost on most readers here; I’m assuming we’re all big enough horror fans here to understand that appreciation of the genre is not about taking the gruesome fantasies literally. Unfortunately, as we have seen online in recent months, there are still a great many lazy-minded types who don’t have a taste for horror (which is fine), who subsequently assume all those who do like horror to be stupid and/or dangerous reprobates (which is most definitely not fine). As such, it is timely and refreshing to see a film which passionately and intelligently argues in favour of horror in this way, emphasising that graphic violence in fantasy does not invariably lead to violence in reality, but rather provides a means for cathartic release. No, it isn’t pretty and it isn’t tasteful, but that’s the whole bloody point (pun intended). And, as Some Guy Who Kills People also emphasises, it’s entirely feasible to have those thoughts, enjoy those images, and walk away living a happy, healthy, peaceful life.
Phew, for a review I considered arbitrary I’ve certainly made this one last… and I should think I’ve made my feelings clear. Easily one my top 10 films of the year, Some Guy Who Kills People is a must-see. So see it.
Some Guy Who Kills People is out in UK cinemas on 5th October, then on Region 2 DVD, Blu-Ray and on demand on 15th October, from Grimm Entertainment.