Sunday, December 19, 2010

Finally watched "The Killer Inside Me"

"The Killer Inside Me," Michael Winterbottom's movie based on Jim Thompson's book, pretty much got railroaded by the Polite Police because of its depiction of violence against women.  Most of the violence isn't all that violent, just some nice spanking on some nice, bare female asses.  The main character beats two women, one almost to death, and since it is depicted realistically, the Polite Police did everything they could to sink this picture before it had a fair chance in the theaters.  As a result, I had to wait six months to see it on video.  Unfortunately, I'm not convinced it was worth the wait.

As far as the issue of the depiction of violence against women in motion pictures is concerned, I'll just say this:  It's ok to depict violence against men as nobody complains when Arnold stomps his way through a movie killing twenty men at once with a machine gun.  Nobody makes so much as a whimper of protest.  If a woman is slapped on film, the writer, director, and any other male associated with the movie is called a "misogynist" and the movie is banned.  If violence is bad, shouldn't we be shocked any time it is depicted, regardless of whether the victim of the violence is male or female?  It's a case of social and moral hypocrisy, something the Polite Police are dangerously talented at;  Regardless, the director of "The Killer Inside Me" is merely adapting events depicted in the book and, frankly, I'd rather he did it in a manner that demonstrated how disgusting violence actually is than gloss over it in some cutesy Hollywood manner.

All that aside, I am beginning to wonder if Jim Thompson is the HP Lovecraft of crime fiction-- i.e., He can't be adapted to film without losing the substance of what makes his fiction so wonderful.  Thompson's fiction deals quite a bit with the way people think.  It's hard to put that on screen and I don't believe "The Killer Inside Me" succeeded in that regard.  There is a French production of "Pop. 1280" that takes place in Africa.  By completely displacing the story from its American roots, I think those filmmakers managed to do what Kubrick often did with novels, which is take the skeleton of the story and apply new flesh to it to make it an entirely new experience.  The only thing "The Killer Inside Me" successfully translates is the feeling of dread the main character experiences as he realizes everyone around him knows he's guilty and is simply waiting for the right moment to move in and arrest him.

None of Thompson's nihilism makes it into the movie intact.  Most horrendous, the filmmakers have tacked on the standard Hollywood-issue 'blame the father' motif that I am certain was not in the novel (I haven't read it in a few years, so I could possibly be mistaken, though I doubt it).  The book, as I recall, did not delve into a lot of Freudian bullshit about the killer's childhood.   That's a modern Hollywood invention and it sucks and it makes any movie its in suck.

I really can't recommend this movie.  I was bored for a lot of it and never felt that thrill one feels when reading a Jim Thompson novel, knowing you are in the mind of one of the most honest American writers ever.

Oh well...


  1. Film rarely get it right. I'm glad you saved me the time of watching this.

  2. Dig the comparison with Lovecraft. Once forgotten/ignored, only hailed by genre-lovers, and then slowly reevaluated by critics and finally, accepted as canon.