If you had to choose some kind of nickname done with alliteration, what would it be? Me, I’d probably pick Morbid Matt. Seems right. But that’s the thing, we don’t pick our nicknames, they pick us. Through our actions in our most vulnerable moments, that’s often how these nicknames come about, because it’s when we show who we really are. Thus is the case for some badass women in Killer Kate.
Directed by Elliot Feld and written by Feld and Daniel Moya, Killer Kate tells the story of a highly-reserved woman named Kate (Alexandra Feld). At the forceful request of her dying father, Kate decides to attend her estranged sister Angie’s (Danielle Burgess) bachelorette party. Along with friends Sara (Amaris Davidson) and Mel (Abby Eiland), the girls think they’re in for a largely boring night of drinking and getting high, but little do they know they’ve been targeted by a group of killers. Turns out though, these girls have more fight in them than the killers were expecting.
Killer Kate lets it be known immediately exactly what kind of movie this is. We’re introduced to a group of killers played by Grant Lyon, Robert Donovan, Brandon Bales, Preston Flagg, and horror queen Tiffany Shepis (Night of the Demons). Check out Jessie’s interview with Shepis HERE. This is not your average bunch of psychopaths. Lyon and Flagg play a pair of sons who want nothing to do with the killing, only in it because the man in charge, daddy (Donovan), wants them to be. Then there’s the bumbling oaf (Bales) and his sister (Shepis). Of the group, Shepis is the only one that strikes me as capable of killing anyone, with a sly attitude that suggests killing is pure ecstasy and she looks forward to getting high off putting an ax in your face. So it’s clear that Feld and his team in no way expect Killer Kate to scare you. Instead, we get an over the top, comedic film which manages to fall short of being wildly entertaining.
With the arguments over the funnier elements of the new Halloween, there’s been a lot of debate over comedy in horror recently, and I’m not sure why. The two have gone hand in hand as far back as the Universal classic monster movies (Abbot and Costello, anyone?). The issue, from my standpoint, is less that comedy doesn’t belong in horror, and more that it needs to be done effectively so as to not distract from the overall tension of the film. Comedy should provide relief, but it shouldn’t take away the fear altogether. In Killer Kate’s case, the comedy is damn effective in showing us a side of slasher villains we don’t often see, such as Lyon trying to pump himself up to go back in the house and finish the job, but falls asleep instead. Where it falls apart is that the comedy is played so heavily, while the horror is all but forgotten, that at times, taking that nap with Lyon doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Feld allows the audience to feel completely safe in the light of bloodshed, erasing tension where there should be plenty. And while the film has its funny moments, this isn’t laugh-a-minute horror like Evil Dead II, so throughout most of the film, we’re left without much feeling, one way or the other. Killer Kate is like bad sex: it feels fine, but you wouldn’t mind if it ended sooner rather than later.
Killer Kate’s real strength lies in its characters. Like the villains, Kate and her friends all stand out from one another without becoming one note stereotypes like “the quiet girl” or “the bitchy girl”. Moya and Feld do well to give these characters well-rounded personalities that make them feel like genuine people, maybe even your group of girlfriends that you hang out with every weekend. What’s more, is they’re all endearing badasses in one way or another, which is always a positive. Alexandra Feld of course steals the show as Kate. It’s hard not to root for an apprehensive-turned ass-kicking woman who has taken shit the whole film and has had enough. Feld rips and roars through the screen as she practically showers in the blood of her enemies. At its core, Killer Kate is about letting go of who you’ve been and fighting to be something more, at any cost (which also happens to tie into the unbelievably stupid motive of the killers, but we don’t have to get into that). My one negative on Kate, though: she doesn’t like Halloween. How could you hate Halloween, Kate? Your nickname should be Buzz-Killer Kate. Count yourself lucky that’s the only lame joke I’m going to make about this.
As endearing as the characters are though, their fun personalities wear off pretty quickly once the action gets going. That’s because no one really seems all that concerned about what’s happening. What’s that, a friend just died in front of me? Oh well, I have other friends. No one is worse about this than the pizza guy who shows up and gets trapped in the house with the girls, and is more worried about getting back to work than, you know, the people outside waiting to rip his guts out. It’s this sort of lackadaisical awareness that continues to inform the audience that if the characters don’t have anything to be “excited” over, neither do we.
That being said, the overall fun tone and goofy killers manage to keep us engaged through a script that could really benefit from that little bit of extra. Despite the appearance of Kate on the poster (she looks like she got wardrobe advice from Carrie White), there actually isn’t very much gore in the film at all. It’s as if the filmmakers wanted to do a callback to over the top 80’s horror, or even modern gore-splosions like You’re Next, but either didn’t have the budget or the effects team to do it, so instead we’re treated to kills which are (mostly), surprisingly lacking in the bloodshed department. I’m not saying horror movies have to come with great gore to be considered entertaining, but the tone of Killer Kate consistently calls for more of the red stuff, and we just don’t get it. It’s like trick-or-treating and getting a damn apple. Yeah, I like nuts too, they’re tasty and nutritious, but they’re not candy, and I was promised sweet, sweet candy!
An odd combination of entertaining characters but an overall plain style makes Killer Kate a film full of potential, but only firing at half capacity. Those who enjoy horror-comedies without the horror may find a good dose of late night entertainment in Killer Kate, but fans expecting more than that would be better off attending an estranged family member’s boring party. But when someone decides to collect all the phones and put them in the trunk “to better enjoy each other’s company”, you say screw that and bail, because they’re all obviously trying to get killed off in a horror movie (and yes, that is a thing that happens in Killer Kate, yay for poor excuses to get rid of technology in horror).