By Janine Gericke.
I really wanted to like Killer Kate! It’s clear that director Elliot Feld loves horror movies and has grown up watching the classics. But, the film is so full of homages and references that it fails to create anything new.
Kate (Alexandra Feld) and her younger sister Angie (Danielle Burgess) haven’t seen each other in several years. When Angie had gone away to college, Kate stayed behind to take care of their ailing father. On Halloween weekend, the girls reunite for Angie’s bachelorette weekend. Along with two of Angie’s friends, they rent a remote mountain house through a home-sharing app. Of course, they have no idea what awaits them.
The film actually opens with a scene involving the murderous family who are planning and strategizing how they will kill four innocent women who rent their house. In most horror movies, the first scene gives the audience a glimpse of the tone of the film. Because Killer Kate! was billed as a horror comedy, I expected this scene to be hilarious. Instead, we see a boring and choppy scene. Four characters sit around a table, one of them, Tino (Preston Flagg) uncontrollably sobbing. Terry (Brandon Bales) is hashing out the plan while Jimmy (Grant Lyon) questions said plan, worried about the family’s karma. Jimmy is also wearing a ‘Shop Smart’ trucker hat. (Although, I wish it directly echoed the goofy brilliance of Bruce Campbell in Army of Darkness: “Shop Smart. Shop S Mart.”) Their sister Christine (Tiffany Shepis) is fairly quiet throughout, except for some fits of laughter and the father, Briskman (Robert Donavan), whose face is not revealed, is just trying to keep everyone in line. It is during this scene that we are introduced to Kate, but not the main character. Kate is a barbed wire laced baseball bat. That’s right, just like in The Walking Dead, we have a Lucille.
We get a sense of how remote the girls are as they are driving to the house. An aerial shot shows the vast landscape and long long road with few other cars. They even pass a sign warning “PRIVATE ROAD” “KEEP OUT.” At one point, they pull over on the side of the road for a smoke break and a truck stops not too far behind. The driver of the truck, who is actually Briskman, drives up and parks next to them and he asks if they need any help. “Four girls all by themselves. Y’all be careful.” Ugh.
The pacing is pretty slow, with the action only beginning around the 40-minute mark of this 80-minute film. There is a lot of exposition that ultimately does little for the story. Once it starts to move, there are some nice homages, including one where Sara is trapped in a toolshed and the camera takes her point of view as she looks for a weapon to defend herself (Bruce is back, with a little nod to Evil Dead).
I wanted the film to go further. Why not be really crazy and ridiculous with the stunts, dialogue, and kills? I wanted something more akin to Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010), throwing these women into a crazy situation where they only make it out alive by accidentally killing their attackers, instead of just horror references and a scattered story. I may have chuckled once or twice, but I just didn’t get the laugh out loud moments I wanted, or anything that would make me say, “What?! I can’t believe that happened!” The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it also isn’t self aware.
I won’t tell you not to watch Killer Kate!, but personally, I walked out disappointed. The film just isn’t sure what it wants to be. Cut the premise down a bit and really focus on the main drive of the story, and this would make an excellent short film. As someone who also loves horror movies, I understand and appreciate where Feld is coming from and am curious to see what he does next.
Janine Gericke is a Film International ‘In the Field’ writer.