The Killer Inside Me
The Killer Inside Me is Michael Winterbottom's adaptation of Jim Thompson's
eponymous 1952 noir novel, which had previously been made into a 1976 movie
starring Stacy Keach.
A small-town deputy gets caught in the middle of a situation involving a
prostitute, a rich man, and the rich man's son, who falls in love with the
hooker. Before the situation can get resolved to everyone's satisfaction, the
deputy finds himself in a sado-masochistic relationship with the prostitute,
and their violent sex triggers some evil instincts which had been buried deep
inside of him. He ends up killing the prostitute and the son, and he has to
murder several others in the process of covering his tracks.
Jim Thompson’s nihilistic novels have also inspired a number
of other crime films such as After Dark My Sweet, The Grifters, two versions
of The Getaway, and some French films. His works are always difficult to adapt
into commercially viable projects because the themes are so dark and the
action is so perversely violent, but this one is especially difficult because
it's written entirely in the first person, and the narrator, deputy Lou Ford,
is a sociopathic murderer whose words are unreliable, self-serving and
delusional. This creates all sorts of headaches for a film adaptation because
ambiguity is difficult to maintain without confusion when the audience is
actually witnessing events taking place. Are we seeing what we see because it
really happened, or because the film is in the P.O.V. of an unreliable
narrator? Our natural instinct when watching a film is to believe our eyes.
Another problem in the book-to-film process occurs because some elements of
character development which are obvious on paper, like a virtually illiterate
man's claims to be some kind of cultured genius belied by his poor writing,
are much more difficult to convey visually.
The 1976 version of the film kinda pulled a switcheroo to
portray Lou accurately. Instead of letting him represent himself to be better
than the deeds portrayed, Lou is shown to be a ostensibly beloved and
respected citizen who betrays himself in the interior monologues heard by the
audience. The 2010 adaptation is closer to the novel, in that Lou lies to the
audience as much as he lies to everyone else. As a result, I found myself
quite consistently confused. For example, Lou is finally trapped by the one
thing he could not deny - the testimony of an eyewitness. Or so it seems. But
the eyewitness is somebody who had died much earlier. Therefore, we have to
ask ourselves, "Is the witness actually still alive, or are we watching Lou's
guilt come home to roost?"
It seems to me that the last ten minutes of the film must be Lou's fantasy.
But then that's just my supposition. Or perhaps the entire story we have
witnessed is actually Lou's fantasy. That may well be, because all of the
female characters love Lou in direct proportion to how violently he beats
them, and that ratio seems to exist outside of objective reality. So if some
of we have seen is drawn from Lou's imagination, can we rely on anything else
we have witnessed? Has the film portrayed the events objectively throughout,
or is everything meant to portray Lou's delusions? Or has the camera shown us
some events objectively and some through Lou's delusions?
Frankly, I just don't know. The film fails to convey any answers to those
If I had adapted this story into a film, I would have avoided using any
voice-over and would have changed the narrative voice to make the camera an
objective observer, just to obviate the problems I've just described. Of
course that would not make the film any easier to watch. In addition to being
a confusing film, The Killer Inside Me is also an extremely unpleasant one.
It's filled with graphic violence against women.
Surprisingly, those weaknesses don't prevent the film from exuding a
mesmerizing aura. We are pulled so deep into Lou Ford's world that we start to
feel the noose tightening around him, as if we ourselves had committed the
heinous acts, and were starting to run out of alibis. It's to the credit of
director Michael Winterbottom and star Casey Affleck that we actually start to
get deeply involved in the fate of such an evil person, because they create
that involvement without ever trying to make us like Lou, and without
sugar-coating Lou's deeds.
There is nothing in this film for mainstream viewers, who will find the
action both confusing and ugly, but arthouse devotees and omniverous
cinephiles may well find something to like. I have to admit that the film held
me in thrall. Bottom line - I was confused, but I never lost
interest and I wanted to see how it would all play out!
Roger Ebert 2.5/4. Ebert and I generally agree on the caliber of the film,
but he has a completely different take on it, so his article is definitely
worth reading if you have any interest in the film.
Who knows? Three women get beaten with a belt, and the action focuses on
their backsides. Kate Hudson and Jessica Alba may have used body doubles. Alba
is on screen for something like ten minutes of sex scenes, but the editing
techniques keep everything hidden except for the one butt shot in which her
face is not visible.
The third woman - not sure of the ID. Deep at Sea says it is Caitlin
Turner. Somebody else says it is Blake Lindsley. I can't tell from the story
and credits. Of the two choices, Turner is more likely. (It doesn't look like
Blake Lindsley, and I don't know what Caitlin Turner looks like.) Whoever it
might be, the butt and head are matched up. There are also some grimy
pornographic Polaroids of her. Or of somebody!
Film clips by third parties
Some Alba (or body double) caps
One collage of the third woman