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Released Oct. 26, 2018
Unrated (equal to rated R for violence, some gore, and language) – 1hr 20min
Directed by Elliot Feld
Starring Alexandra Feld, Danielle Burgess, Tiffany Shepis
Kate (Feld), a mild-mannered office worker, is surprised with an invitation to the bachelorette party of her estranged sister (Burgess), whom she hasn’t seen or spoken to in years. They gather in a secluded home in the California hills, rented with an AirBnB-style app, for a good time, but the deranged family that lives there has other plans for them. Murdery plans.
Killer Kate! is a lot of things – an irreverent parody of home invasion/hillbilly horror films, an actual home invasion/hillbilly horror film, an indie family drama, and a girls-night-out comedy. It should be an absolute mess, but the film keeps all these plates spinning fairly well, especially when considering how quickly it bounces between these disparate tones at times. It’s a fun and satisfying fusion of lighthearted fare with bloody horror.
I’m always skeptical when approaching microbudget films. There are so many bad ones – so many – that have just enough material to splice a compelling 90-second trailer, and I’ve stepped into plenty of those piles. There’s a growing list of movies that I’ve outright declined to review because that meant I would be required to finish them, and that wasn’t happening. When I featured Killer Kate! in our October Horror Watch, its trailer caught my attention, but I had those reflexive suspicions about its potential quality. I’m happy to say that this is one of those diamonds in the rough that make it worthwhile to sift through the mountain of independent releases.
Killer Kate! is attempting to handle a lot of generally incompatible thematic material, but it establishes an ideal tone – a just-right balance between relaxed and serious – that allows it to cycle through and blend these elements as it pleases. Sometimes, it’s a Lifetime movie about two sisters trying to learn how to forgive each other. At other times, it’s a zany spoof of movies like The Strangers and The Devil’s Rejects. Other times still, it plays the horror with a straight face. It also incorporates some of the awkward neurotic goofball tone found in many indie comedies. While it doesn’t connect with every swing it takes, it lands enough across such a wide range of styles to establish a very impressive batting average.
To adeptly cram so much into its scant 80 minute runtime, Killer Kate! has a sharp script, courtesy of Daniel Moya and director Elliot Feld. One of the movie’s clever subversions is showing some of the events from the perspective of the killers – their mundane planning, their lack of cohesion, their unrealistic expectations, their in-fighting – and that choice to devote considerable time to both sides of the conflict is what allows the parody elements to shine. Also, the family drama components are lightly woven into the narrative – never forced out in front, but presented naturally throughout the story at opportune times. Considering that it still finds time to develop some quality horror moments while making subtle allusions to backstory that provide more depth to the characters, the screenplay is the MVP here.
That’s not to downplay other contributions, however. Alexandra Feld as Kate is quite the charming badass – she plays her as delightfully awkward but with a clear no-nonsense streak. Uncomfortable around her sister and her friends yet more at home when fighting armed intruders to the death, she provides the character an unspoken dimension that alludes to some mysterious past. Other acting standouts are Abby Eiland as the acid-mouthed partygoer Mel and Brandon Bales as psychotic doofus Terry, who behaves as if he stumbled out of a hybrid between an episode of It’s Always Sunny… and a Rob Zombie movie. John E. Hopkins also composes a synthy Carpenter-style score that sounds really good, even if it doesn’t always mesh with the sometimes humorous proceedings.
My biggest critique of Killer Kate! is, however, its climactic confrontation. Without being spoilery, it might gel with the vibe of the rest of the film – it is a parody, after all – it still felt like something of a pulled punch. Yet, as a whole, it was an enjoyable experience and a great under-the-radar find.
Killer Kate! gets a rating of
(Starting today, we’re replacing the letter grades with a system that better reflects an appreciation for the horror genre that the letters just didn’t properly get across. For instance, a ‘C’ will now be a rating of ‘Decent’ – that way, it’s clear that the movie was still enjoyable. We’ll be converting all the reviews over the next few days and adding a chart that shows the whole new system.)