Tuesday, March 15, 2016

ND/NF ’16: Kill Me, Please

Kids will be kids. This dark pseudo-horror story is set in Brazil, but you could just as easily find girls similarly struggling with peer pressure, craving attention, obsessing over grisly crimes, and somewhat repressing latent lesbianism in Uruguay. There is a head fake towards old school genre filmmaking, but thrills and chills are too crass and bourgeoisie for Anita Rocha da Silveira’s Kill Me, Please, which screens during this year’s New Directors/New Films.

Bia has a morbid fascination with the victims of a serial killer striking on the outskirts of Rio, but she is sort of entitled, given they all bear a striking resemblance to her. Her anti-social brother would be the prime suspect in most films, but da Silveira has no interest in such tawdry thriller business. We have no idea where their parents might be. In fact, we hardly see hide nor hair of any parental unit in Kill Me, Please.

Before long, Bai and her social circle start to view everything through the prism of the murders. Some their classmates take up old time religion, like the ex-boyfriend Bai recently deflowered. Perhaps not surprisingly, the girls will start to act increasingly erratic an occasionally violent.

The instructively titled Kill Me, Please is maddeningly frustrating, because it has all the raw ingredients of a nifty little exploitation film. Unfortunately, da Silveira refuses to go there. Although several scenes initially evoke a John Carpenter vibe, she chokes off all suspense before things get the slightest bit messy.

It is a shame, because the world can always use another twisted cult film that finds its audience over time. Instead, the self-consciously mannered will come and go from the festival circuit, without hardly making a ripple. The youthful cast is mostly adequate, but there is an important distinction to be drawn between looking bored as demanded by the dramatic context and the ill-disguised boredom of the cast.

Throughout Kill Me, Please, there are flashes of the Kevin Williamson film it could have been, particularly with respect to da Silveira’s use of music. Unfortunately, she seems rather sheepishly guilty when it comes to her genre inspirations, opting to give the world a warmed over art film instead. Disappointing by most standards, Kill Me, Please screens this Thursday (3/17) at MoMA an Saturday (3/19) at the Walter Reade, as part of the 2016 ND/NF.