So I first saw this in 2017 when Michael Swaim made it available on the Small Beans YouTube channel, and was recently reminded of it when talking about how much I liked Michael Swaim and so I decided to review it. Before we get started, a quick info dump, Kill Me Now, is a 2012, independent movie, written by and starring Michael Swaim (noted for being a key member of Cracked). It was directed by Travis Long and stars Jacob Reed, Beck Bennett, Brett Fancy, Kaitlin Large, Kyle Mooney, Nick Mundy, Katie Willert, and Katy Stoll.
So let’s move on to the review, first off it has an actual personality to it, it’s not just a generic comedy/horror flick that relies upon titillation or graphic gore to engage its audience. It actually utilises both sparingly, which not only increases the impact but also helps to carve out that personality I mentioned above. Now, despite the murders, it leans far more into the comedy than the horror, utilising cliche and subversion of cliche, self-awareness of genre and genuinely funny dialogue to make for a legitimately entertaining movie.
Speaking of the dialogue, I will admit that at times it felt like the dialogue was written to be dialogue, by which I mean, it was sometimes too clever or wordy for something said on the spur of the moment, but that’s not exactly exclusive to this and as such Isn’t a huge problem. It is funny though, and that’s the far more important thing. I also liked that while Dennis (played by Michael Swaim) was consistently entertaining, it never felt like he saved all the good lines for himself. What I liked most though was that while it borrowed from other teen comedies and horror movies, it still managed to have it’s own slightly awkward identity.
So the dialogue was a strong part of this movie, from the almost brain dead taunts of the Jocks, to the sharp and funny dialogue and interactions between Dennis and Noah (played by Jacob Reed). It’s this chemistry that really makes the movie as good as it is. The interactions between the lead actors feel genuine, they just want to party, and be unabashed losers. Also something that I really liked was that unlike other nerdy friends in TV and Film, like in Superbad or The Inbetweeners for example, they actually seemed to like each other, and they aren’t just friends because they are misfits who can’t fit in anywhere else. Speaking of which, I really like how they push each other, it feels like a real friendship, and makes for some of the more fun moments in the film. I think one of the best examples of this is during the early party scenes where Noah wants to give his ex Claire (played by Kaitlin Large) a gift, but instead gives her a breath mint because he panicked and backed out. Dennis is right by his side pushing him to do it. It feels authentic. I touched on the Jocks being dumb, and man this movie steers into that at every turn, they keep it up as well, we have no breakdowns where everyone holds hands and apologises for being bullies, instead they remain dense right up until the end and while that’s a choice that could easily have backfired I think it worked really well.
Todd (played by SNL alumni Beck Bennett) is genuinely funny as well, as he oscillates between bullying people and being very fussy about the treatment of his cabin and his dad’s possessions. It really works, and in particular his commitment to being objectionable and dickish to Noah at every turn even when he’s making sense or being useful to the situation is one of my favourite aspects of the movie. I spoke about it a little bit above, but one of the other standouts of the movie was Swaim himself, he played Dennis with an incredible amount of energy and depth, he gave of a relaxed and care-free vibe, where he seems unconcerned with the social caste structure of high school, and also seemed relatively willing to challenge the Jocks, who he verbally spars with at different points throughout the movie. It honestly feels like he’s a ‘loser’ by choice. On that note, I need to talk about Noah, he is I guess our hero, if that’s appropriate to call him, he despite being relatively attractive, is anxious and not particularly outgoing and so never really rose through the social ranks. He feels real as a nerd, but also as he begins to grow in confidence throughout the movie, and assert himself in response to the threat of the killer, it also feels authentic.
Speaking about the killer (played by Brett Fancy), I loved him, not only does he have a rad nickname, the ‘Driller Killer’ but he’s also super cool. He has the same sort of erudite charm and sophistication of Hannibal Lecter (right down to the classical music playing in his van) with a little bit of the mother obsession of Norman Bates and yet he’s not a complete monster, and the movie isn’t afraid to make him look a little bit ridiculous while still presenting him as a credible threat. A good example of this is when he catches the hammer thrown at him, a pretty badass thing to do, but he ruins it by talking about how he didn’t even practice it. He’s funny and mildly threatening, but more important he’s believable as the kind of killer who would drill holes in people’s heads. I also want to add that the actor made a specific choice in this role, and it’s one that could have easily been overplayed but he did a tremendous job that fit right in with the tone of this movie.
The acting isn’t perfect all around, it has its of moments that aren’t exactly strong, but I think it works for the film, and yeah while it’s not perfect it is funny, and it’s mostly down to the little things, like when the Driller Killer has some potential victims pinned down, and he is temporarily incapcitated by a paint can falling on his head, and as the victims flee, you can hear him exclaim about how that really hurt, it’s totally unnecessary but added to the thing as a whole.
Moving away from the characterisation for a moment to talk about the production, firstly the soundtrack was really good. It was used well in the movie, they had music and integrated it well, without being overstated or without seeming like they blew the budget on that one big song. I think this was particularly noticed during the party montage scene, and what I liked about this was that the music worked well within the scene and shifts from non-diegetic to diegetic sound as the montage transitions to a new scene, it’s really smooth and I personally thought it was cool. Overall the cinematography was good as well, especially for an indie film, which and I apologise to indie movies for this remark, they can often have poor camera work or weird cuts. I’m not going to say this was perfectly shot, there were scenes where the lighting could have been better, and I’m not just talking about the scene where the killer cut the lights. But overall it was functional and they used a variety of shots in a scene. I think my favourite shot though happened really early, where the Jocks have just come out of the liquor store, and the camera is inside the trunk. I don’t know why I liked it some much other than that it was a bit quirky, but it was fun.
Okay, so overall this movie is solidly funny, and while I cannot say that I was ever truly scared there were moments of real tension. For example, the Driller Killer’s freakout in the car after he escapes from the party to regroup felt very real and it made me genuinely uncomfortable. For a horror/comedy, it does default to comedy for that anything but I think it works for the movie. It’s relatively well acted, with a few weak moments here and there but nothing too substantial. You could make the argument that the Jock characters strain credulity with their obstinance and stupidity but honestly I think their conviction of character is part of the charm of the movie, even if they themselves are just awful people. So I think with all of that in mind that this movie earns a 4/5.
First Published on: https://offtherecordblog.org/