Dir. Miguel Martí
Meet Bárbara (Macarena Gómez). She's sexy as the title suggest, glamorous, likes both the cute and pink alongside the dark and macabre, desires to be famous as a celebrity, likes fashion, and just happens to be the mysterious Campus Killer at her university, bumping off anyone she despises or irritates her in gruesome ways. Directly talking to us the viewer, or an invisible camera to be the bafflement of one of her lecturers in one of her anatomy classes, she is perfectly content to enjoy the hottest trends while keeping a man's severed head she's claimed in the fridge. With the police investigators on the Campus Killer's trail, she also falls madly in love with morgue coroner/student Álex (Alejo Sauras), who she mistakes as a serial killer like her and is the one whose performing autopsies on her victims. Add his work in his spare time, a machine that can see into one's mind and can show the last images before a person died, and it's going to be hectic for her. Sexy Killer is definitely a film of the 2000s or so. You can see - when it uses flashy editing, bright candy colours, a parody of an infomercial demonstrating the tools required to suffocate someone with graphics onscreen - that this is a type of film that was birthed to in the late nineties onwards and is frequent now in genre cinema. It runs into sub-genres like grindhouse throwbacks and parodies, and can be said to be the zeitgeist of most cinema now baring the art house branch. It can be seen in blockbusters too. The influences can vary - music videos, Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990), (although its Taxi Driver (1976) that is referenced in this film), Quentin Tarantino and many more. It's a peculiar concoction of self referential, movie geek zaniness. We follow Bárbara in her days, starting at the end of the film with her telling her tale to a man stupid enough to run over her dog, with his fingers broken and a knife in his hand already as she does. It's an oversaturated, hyperactive film. It starts off referencing slasher films, with naked female co-eds in the locker room, than immediately goes to Scream (1996), one of the first films to be a box office hit for its self-referential narcissism, then goes on to quote anything from the 'You're talkin' to me?' speech of Taxi Driver to the Teletubbies. It's bouncing off the walls from the beginning with its lurid and intentionally ridiculous gore that can yet be brutal, constant dropping of plot points and broad humour.
Like the other films of this ilk, the problems immediately raise their heads, more so when I immediately thought of three films I've seen over the years like this one - in chronological order, Gen Sekiguchi's Survive Style +5 (2004), Greg Arak's Kaboom (2010) and Joseph Kahn's Detention (2011). They may reference other works but they sustain themselves on their own energies and weird plots, as candy coloured, hyperactive and zany as a Sexy Killer or a Manborg (2011) but superior. With the exception of Araki, the other directors worked in commercials and/or music videos previously, another trend with these films. All are gaudy, at times glib and as manic as a film like Sexy Killer. But Kaboom has a heart and a controlled, knowing sense of humour in its pastiche. The humour in Sexy Killer is merely broad, and really has no emotions for its characters baring generic drama and romance between Bárbara and Álex. Detention intentionally pushes the use of onscreen graphics, pop culture references and genre mash up pastiches to an extreme, which Sexy Killer is too timid to do, willing to have someone crucified on a cave ceiling, a Christian worship shrine, in blasphemous fashion at one point but never letting such twisted images sink in. Survive Style 5+ has the background that surrealism and pop art was embraced fully in Japanese popular culture, its tendrils even reaching their pop music and adverts. Sexy Killer, a Spanish entry to these sorts of films, could've been interesting. A female killer as the protagonist, who at one point bemoans the sexism of presuming all film killers are male, a goofball horror comedy made in a pan-gender era, post meta-horror and after the existence of Pedro Almodovar's brand of camp black comedies like Kika (1993). The problems becomes obvious when the only real laugh is realising a cover of Aqua's Barbie Dolls is played over one of Bárbara fantasies, of a fake 50s Technicolor gloss of idyllic life, raised to want to be always pretty by her vain mother, not because it adds a point to the scene even out of amusement, but just because a song I was young enough to hear on the radio when it was first released is being covered.
Most of these films are vacuous. Horror cinema now is atrocious in a smugness especially that is transparent. Happy to merely be gory and make an Evil Dead reference, little else after that. Constant film references, but always the same type of films, and with a Taxi Driver, referencing it without any real reason too or learning the craft of such a film, content with the apparent coolness of Robert De Niro talking to himself in front of the mirror but not interested why his character is doing that. Far from being a miserable sourpuss, I find myself with films that cannot string together a barest of narrative threads let alone a charm and charisma, discombobulating quickly into self-fellatio of fandom that's a detriment to the creativity and inspiration you find in fandom too. The virtue of a Greg Araki's Kaboom is that, even if that film ends on an intentional anti-climax, is a consistency to be able to wrap any random, strange ideas into a distinct form that can make them work together, an inventiveness with a real humanity even if it's weird. A Detention was a mess of plot strands but it went so far that it becomes a parody that cannot be loved by the crowd its mocking, like most parodies now, smug with themselves, its extreme hyperactivity divisive to many who see it. Sexy Killer, strung together by random kills, vapid glossy scenes, and plot strands that don't go anywhere and are not random on purpose, is just dull. Moments do stand out with some good things - Álex convincing a person to borrow his suit by having a bonding moment of how they were nerds in college who were virgins, Star Trek fans and awkward with the opposite sex - but most of it fails.
It becomes obnoxious. A potential subplot of someone else who is killing people quickly mentioned and quickly after dropped, and the film devolves into the most conventional of stories. Inexplicably it turns into a zombie film by the end. Yes, it turns into a zombie film. I'm not kidding, suddenly the undead are introduced for the climax. Why? Probably because the director likes George A. Romero films but with no consistent reason to make the switch work at all, or to be so out-there, like Takashi Miike's The Happiness of the Katakuris (2004) that it flummoxes you in its tonal shift. It's vapid in its tributes to films it likes and never becomes its own distinct creation with a real depth of black humour or dares to truly piss off the viewer. The promise for a film here to take an interesting spin on the tropes, a fun one, is lost as soon as it starts. It's not really going to be subversive in its celebration of this female killer, slowly becoming trite as it introduces the Scorpion and the Frog story and suddenly becomes serious in the final moment. Neither is it camp enough or really feminist. The latter is complicated - Bárbara is charismatic, and the actress Gómez is absolutely game for her role, but the character is vapid and only obsessed with shopping and fashion magazines; not inherently a negative, as it's clear in real life glamour and goth/alternative culture are bedfellows for both genders, but her character development is miniscule.
The zombies break out and randomly attack the party Bárbara is at in a poor script contrivance. Her lover Álex and her are ready to have the cliché dramatic scene about her real self that kills the film further, as a home invasion takes place that reminds me why I'd rather be watching Peter Jackson's Brain Dead (1992) again then it. This is worse when, baring a few film references, that film is not close to this smug horror comedy cinema of now, more concerned with the horror being horror, the comedy being real jokes, characters being actually likable, and ripping into fifties New Zealand culture to give itself its own unique personality separate from other horror films like it, things all these genres really need and many lack as if it's a badge of honour. When a blatant CGI explosion burns down the house, the film is completely dead for me. Nothing is really good and it's part of a long line of these films, from Casa di mi Padre (2012) to Die You Zombie Bastards! (2005), the mainstream to the obscure, from the 2000s onward to now, that are as empty as each other. Films thatmerely pat themselves on the back as they believe that they are affectionate tributes to the love of movies and things that are fun. And it's more of an issue since their influences are rarely to blame because they've avoided making the same mistakes. Some - like George Lucas and Troma films - need to be viewed before I can make a judgement, but the others aren't guilty. Steven Spielberg and the movie brat generation vary between the serious and Indiana Jones films. Music videos, and music in general, is varied, and commercials perish quickly. Videogames, before now when they all look the same, are more idiosyncratic to each other then people credit them for. Video and video rental stores could lead to the discovery of truly unique films as well as your per usual schlock. Scorsese varies his work beyond Goodfellas, and Tarantino has actually grown up, won't you believe it, making very peculiar and bold experiments even if he's still obsessed with grindhouse films. So why do films like Sexy Killer exist that fail this badly from their influence? Simply a horrible tendency that surface coolness is enough, which is why most of these similar films of now are as bad.
Abstract Rating (High/Medium/Low/None): None
This is one of those 'zany' films I mentioned in the guidelines for this blog - shown here - those that throw everything they think is weird onscreen but aren't actually weird, not abstract and just tiring. It's a conventional, if shambolic, narrative and isn't brave enough to do something actually strange or daring.
Most cinema that I grew up with, from the early 2000s to now, is rubbish to be honest, because films like this delude themselves into thinking that a fan attitude can make aesthetically sound judgements on art. That's dangerous ground for me, he who only writes amateur reviews, to pose, but with my little inexperienced soapbox out, there is a pronounced difference between someone, regardless if they're a movie fan or started filming music videos etc., who can make fleshed out, engaging art even if its wacky and silly. See Greg Araki. Michel Gondry. Look at what place Quentin Tarantino has gone to now from before, and see why people are getting very tired of the grindhouse revival very quickly. No matter how many pop culture references they have, glib violence and farcical attitudes to meaning, the good artists have more on their mind and have read at least read one book in their lives. They do, for the risk of failure, try to be serious and earnest, or at least give their fan base a kick in the nuts when required. Something like Sexy Killer is middling, a retroactive work that makes the notion of being film fan very uninspired and easy to distract, excess without meaning to it. The result, willing to watch as many films like it as I can even though I should've learnt by now, is painfully drab.