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STUDIO Anchor Bay
RUNNING TIME 97 Minutes
• Director & Writer commentary
• Theatrical Trailer
• Short film “The Fifth”
How not to make a low-budget film in Los Angeles..
Kevin Corrigan, Barry Bostwick, Karen Black, Ariel Gade, and Lucy Davis.
After an extended stay at a mental hospital, Ken Boyd is back. He’s living at home with his mother, and trying to make ends meet by working at the local ice cream parlor. Coincidentally, Ken might also be a serial killer who is hunting down the people who beat him up in high school. When Ken suddenly gains custody of his estranged daughter, he discovers that he might need a change of lifestyle….
Let me start my review by saying this: I love horror comedies. But there are very few horror comedies that are genuinely scary while being genuinely funny. Horror comedies are extremely difficult to do right, and even the best horror comedies often come out slightly unbalanced. The best examples of horror comedy take both their laughs and scares very seriously. Take something like An American Werewolf in London, which is tense, scary, and gory, yet hilariously funny. That, dear friends, is an achievement. Some Guy Who Kills People is not. It’s a poorly made, poorly written, muddy disaster.
The majority of the jokes in Some Guy Who Kills People fall so flat that they become indistinguishable from the other bad dialogue. When it comes to tension and scares, the film is utterly flaccid. It’s got a little bit of decent gore, but we’ve already seen all these gags done better in other films. Being the American Werewolf fan that I am, I was intrigued to see John Landis’ name plastered on the front of the DVD case. Landis is indeed credited as Executive Producer on Some Guy Who Kills People, but he apparently didn’t have any creative involvement.
You see, Landis was originally slated to direct the project, but when the opportunity arose to direct Burke and Hare, Landis was off like a dress on prom night. It’s fairly obvious that Landis left before Some Guy Who Kills People secured its financing, and he obviously never got the chance to take a whack at the screenplay. And who came in to fill the big shoes of Mr. Landis? None other than Jack Perez, the director of such gems as Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus.
Guys like Perez are hired to make bad movies that can be shot on tight schedules with even tighter budgets. Some Guy Who Kills People was shot in sixteen days, with an estimated budget of $300,000. While a film’s schedule and budget shouldn’t dictate the quality of the film, Some Guy looks and feels downright cheap, even for a shoestring budget of $300,000.
Case in point: a sizable portion of the film takes place in a nameless ice cream parlor. For the ice cream parlor set, the production rented out Cadillac Jack’s Cafe, a non-operational 50’s style diner near Los Angeles. It’s a place used almost exclusively for film and television shoots. To turn it into an ice cream parlor, the film’s art department built an awful-looking freezer case onto the end of the counter. Naturally, there needed to be tubs of ice cream in the freezer case. Well, the art department didn’t even bother to paint the “ice cream” like actual ice cream, they just painted mounds of what appears to be foam sealant in various solid colors. And yes, you clearly see it in the film.
This, dear friends, is not indie spirit. If you wanted to squeeze every drop of production value out of $300,000 you wouldn’t set the film in the fictional town of Green Oaks, Ohio, and film it in LA. If you can’t afford to shoot outside of LA, and you can’t avoid getting palm trees in your exterior shots, then rewrite the goddamned script to take place in LA. Then you won’t have to spend your precious budget making “Green Oaks” signs. The art direction in Some Guy Who Kills People is so poor that you might think a local high school theater department created all the sets, props, and signage.
There are some directors and producers working today that can squeeze production value out of absolutely nothing. For example, Mike Flanagan’s Absentia only had about $70,000 to spend and it still came out looking and feeling more real than Some Guy Who Kills People. That’s indie spirit.
The plot of Some Guy is so inane and illogical that I began to wonder if writer Ryan A. Levin had typed the screenplay in Comic Sans. Twice in this film, an eleven-year-old girl just decides to leave her parents’ house to live with her estranged father. Has she run away from her parents? No. She just leaves, and her overprotective parents are fine with it. No custody battle, no lawyers, no legal ramifications. The film’s bumbling cops never even dust for prints, and they just pin evidence to the wall in the police station. I understand that even good films sometimes have plot holes, but Some Guy Who Kills People is a plot abyss. Ryan A. Levin wrote an amateur-level script that, with some major work, could’ve been decent.
Another script-related issue is our protagonist, Ken (Kevin Corrigan). Who is this guy? An emotionally damaged manchild-nerd-basketball-mascot-ice-cream-parlor-employee-artist-potential-serial-killer-new-parent who lives at his mom’s place and has a history of mental illness and suicide attempts? Yes, that’s mostly accurate. Oh, and he’s trying to get his love life back in order, too. There’s a lesson to learn here: characters are supposed to be complex, but not complicated. Ken is just too many things at once, and never enough of one thing.
Despite this, actor Kevin Corrigan delivers a surprisingly earnest performance and manages to somehow make Ken relatable. Barry Bostwick has great comedic timing, and manages to make us chuckle a few times as he plays the town’s bumbling sheriff. Lucy Davis (Shaun of the Dead) is cute and funny, but her character should’ve been cut from the film entirely, as the romantic subplot just makes the film meander further from its central narrative. It’s a real shame, because she’s great. Karen Black also delivers a good performance as Ken’s mother. Ariel Gade is a promising young actress, but she’s fourteen or fifteen, and playing an eleven-year-old character. She’s just way too old for the part, making for some very strange line readings and unintentionally creepy moments.
Okay, dear readers, here be spoilers: the film has a twist. As it turns out, contrary to what the film’s title, trailer, DVD packaging, and promotional art would have us believe, Ken is not the killer. The reason this twist is so unwelcome is that it removes the single most interesting thing about our protagonist.
We’ve spent the majority of the film getting to know Ken, but we are suddenly informed that we never really got to know him at all. This makes me feel like I’ve wasted ninety minutes rooting for Ken, and that he really was just some schmuck all along. The other schmuck is me, for getting my hopes up about Some Guy Who Kills People.
The transfer on this disc is surprisingly vibrant and crisp. It’s got some slight, run-of-the-mill compression artifacts, but nothing offensive. It actually looks pretty good for a standard definition transfer. The 5.1 surround track is extremely underwhelming, since all the dialogue is up front and center, and there’s no amazing sound design at work. A stereo track would have been more fitting.
As far as special features go, the disc features a trailer and a short film by writer Ryan A. Levin. The short film, titled The Fifth, is actually kind of a promising sketch comedy piece. Sam Lloyd (Ted on Scrubs) plays a murderer who shows up late to a poker game with four of his buddies. The short seems like it would have fit well on a show like The Whitest Kids U’Know.
Also on the disc is a commentary from director Jack Perez and writer Ryan A. Levin. The commentary audio quality is quite poor, full of pops and crackles. It’s not an outstanding series of observations about the film, but I might recommend film students listen to it. They talk about how difficult it was to acquire and keep locations for the film, and how many favors you have to call in to get a movie made on a shoestring budget. Even the writer himself takes time to point out plot holes.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars