Friday, September 21, 2012

Killer Joe (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Killer Joe

American Gothic director William Friedkin has a new film out and he seldom misses out on a visceral, haunting, upsetting or psychically  jarring experience. His gallery of rogues have included, a sweet and vulnerable young girl torn apart by an execrable demon, (The Exorcist) a pair of driven and closeted cops, (The French Connection, Cruising) a nest of nasty, snarling thespians, (The Boys in the Band) and last but certainly not least, a group of criminals who risk everything, carrying explosives over a swinging  bridge. (The Sorcerer)

Friedkin, in the tradition of Bunuel and Polanski, thrives on audience discomfort  and he doesn't change his tune here.

"Killer Joe" takes place in a squeamish fly-infested Texas town where everything is rusty and anemic, either stained with fecal matter or blanched a bone gray. The very earth seems composed of broken metallic parts and the people themselves, hobble and drift about chewing on their gums with little outlet, occupation or money.

Everybody hates each other, and then some. 

Drug Dealer Chris Smith (Emile Hirsch) needs money. He is victimized by his monster-mom who we never really see and takes a hit out on her. He enlists the help of  the chiseled and robotic Detective Joe Cooper,  played to creepy perfection by Matthew Mconaughey who seems to have a secret leather or cloth fetish (among other very upsetting pre-occupations) in keeping with a former film character Steve Burns in "Cruising". Cooper has more than a bit of Frank Booth from "Blue Velvet" in him here too, but that's really not the surprise, the Halloween trick is seeing how far Joe is going to go. 

You have to see it to believe it. As I recall, this is what someone once said to me during a Halloween movie about a little girl in 1979.

This film will give you both yikes and yucks in spite of all, although perhaps more are needed. Not since "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" or the stories of Flannery O' Connor has there been a more amoral or evil family depicted. There is one outrageous scene that is guaranteed to keep you away from fried chicken, at least for a few nights. Cinematically-speaking, we can all sleep a bit easier with no KFC here.

Juno Temple plays the eerie and manipulative young daughter Dottie, whose bedraggled yet willful bearing (complete with stringy hair) reminds one of, yes indeed, the demonically-blighted Regan. And near the end, she's (almost) just as crazed.

Gina Gershon plays a narcissistic stepmom and Thomas Haden Church plays a selfish, weak, dumbling. Everyone on screen is petty and does terrible manipulations to each other, but even though no one is even remotely likable, the deadpan dialogue and punch-drunk gothicism succeeds to the point of dizziness. 

You probably won't exit  this film puzzled or perplexed as you might with "Rosemary's Baby", "The Tenant" or "Crusing" but this is not its purpose. This is a rough and tumble roast to jolt your eyes. Both the actors and the action go increasingly over the top, but I wouldn't expect less from such an impresario of  Ick. The director has such a time honored and scary legacy that even though the humor is blacker than black, the characters and tone do not  disappoint.
Go ahead, don't be scared. See "Killer Joe" on a dare and you'll be freaked out by Friedkin once more. 

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