Friday, September 30, 2016

Hold the Logic - I KNOW WHO KILLED ME


I generally prefer my epicly bad movies to be vintage, 1995 or earlier (sweet spot, '75 to '85). The best, most enjoyable bad movies are the ones that don't see themselves as bad movies.  They were created in earnest, with passion and the desire to create something of quality.  They fail, but they often fail in spectacular, innovative ways.  To paraphrase Donald Trump, we've seen quality before, it's boring. (Wait, that might have been a direct quote.)  Contemporary films tend to be too self aware to really capture that magic.  There are exceptions, like THE ROOM, but most "bad" movies today seem to be aimed at the people who want to ironically enjoy a movie just so they can laugh at it.  I hate that pandering, winking, "isn't this the worst?!?" kind of attitude.  I watch a bad movie to be surprised, baffled, charmed, and then to laugh at it.  In an admiring way.  So mostly I stick to the older movies for my fix.  Every once in a while, though, I come across an oblivious, tone deaf modern masterpiece.  Welcome 2007's I KNOW WHO KILLED ME to the pool.
 

The Capsule:
Aubrey Fleming (Lindsay Lohan) has the perfect teenage life of being a piano prodigy, an aspiring writer, and giving her attentive jock boyfriend blue balls.  All this changes when she is nabbed by a serial killer who likes to lob off the limbs of his captives.  After a not very exhaustive manhunt, she is found in a ditch, minus an arm and leg.  The only thing is… she’s not Aubrey, but Dakota Moss, a skanky stripper from the wrong side of the tracks.  Both the cops and her doting parents think she’s delusional, creating Dakota as an alter ego to escape the trauma.  Dakota knows who she is, though, and with the help of her fancy new bionic limbs (!), she very, very slowly pieces together what is really going on.  The truth will be more stunningly ridiculous than anyone could imagine.  

On the surface, I KNOW WHO KILLED ME didn’t seem that crazy.  It was a stylishly shot mystery with a hot young star playing a duel role.  There are ambitious (and heavy handed) nods to De Palma and Lynch.  Seemed like a perfectly reasonable studio thriller.  Go a little deeper, though, and it becomes a one way trip to a color drenched crazyland.  


I guess this would be a SPOILER, but there is no way to talk about this film without revealing the underlying premise.  Dakota and Aubrey are stigmatic twins, separated at birth.  The deal with stigmatic twins is that when one is injured, the other sympathetically feels the pain.  Nothing new there, we’ve seen this bullshit in plenty of movies and TV shows before.  I KNOW WHO KILLED ME takes it up a notch, though.  Dakota doesn’t just feel Aubrey’s pain, she gets the physical manifestation of the injury as well.  As in, “oh crap, my arm just fell off for no reason.”  Like the best bad movies, it plays this preposterous concept totally straight.  A little bit of awareness does creep in when Dakota doesn’t tell the doctors or the cops because she knows they won’t believe her.  When she does tell Aubrey’s dad (Neal McDonough), though, he just goes along with it, instead of saying “Wait, that’s literally impossible.”

It does bring up the question of how these twins managed to avoid any serious injury up to this point.  Dakota doesn’t seem all that surprised by sudden, unexplained wounds, though, so I guess Aubrey is the clumsy one.  It’s just another perk to Dakota’s wonderful dirtbag life.  When her finger splits open and starts draining pus in the shower, she reacts like it is a nasty hangnail.  Even when her finger falls off, she just sews it back on and hopes for the best.  No reason to go to the hospital, because, as she says, hospitals are for rich people.  That’s exactly what I think when I’m in the Emergency Room lobby at 2am.  Too many damn rich people.  Hey Rockefeller, can you pass me that six month old copy of Woman's Day? 

I wonder if Dakota was ever up nights trying to figure out why the hell she keeps getting tennis elbow.  Also, if Aubrey gets her eyes dilated at the eye doctor, does Dakota get blurry vision?  If Dakota takes drugs, does Aubrey get a bonus high?  The questions are endless.

Other films have had concepts that make no sense in reality (looking at you, THE PURGE) but turn out to be reasonably good movies.  Luckily, I KNOW WHO KILLED ME does not rely on a single wacko premise.  Once the movie hits its crazy stride, the director goes all in.  Dakota gets a robot hand and leg, because why not?  At one point, she suddenly turns into Clarice Starling, searching the room of a former victim (not a smart Clarice Starling, though, since she doesn’t pick up on the clue that a four year-old would get).  There are prophetic dreams with animated tattoos.  Near the end, she and Aubrey turn into full-on telepaths.  She even has a vision straight out of a HARRY POTTER movie.  

I do like how they work in the title of the film.  Upon figuring out who kidnapped her twin, Dakota dramatically tells Aubrey’s dad, “I know who killed me.”  The dad rightfully points out that she is, in fact, not dead (and using the movie’s crazy logic, neither is Aubrey).  Like everything in the film, it sounds cool, but it doesn’t make a damn bit of sense.

The movie also scores points for its wonderfully impractical, amputation obsessed serial killer.  First of all, he makes all of his weapons and torture devices out of glass, because nothing is more intimidating than an extremely fragile knife.  He actually has a glass hatchet, which convinces me he didn’t think things through.  I suppose it’s better than making deadly instruments from egg shells or soap bubbles.  

Second, his method of choosing victims is ridiculously specific.  Technically this would be a spoiler, but the guy practically has a neon arrow blinking the word “killer” over his head when he is first introduced.  It’s the piano instructor, and he only abducts (1) his own students, (2) who have won a certain award, and (3) have decided to quit piano.  I’m surprised he didn’t publicly give them gifts of one glove and one shoe before the abductions.  It’s a good thing for him that the cops and the FBI are so astoundingly incompetent.  Otherwise they totally would have found his torture dungeon, also known as his unlocked basement.

As far as his motives go, your guess is as good as mine.  I kept waiting for some flashback or grim exposition.  Maybe his overly strict piano playing mother had a wooden leg, or he had some weird psycho-sexual trauma tied into the blue stained glass in his boyhood bedroom window.  A couple of times it seemed like he was about to go into it, but then nothing.  Just as well.  It gives you the chance to make up your own motives.  The backstory I created was that this freak was way, way too into THE PIANO, especially the part where Holly Hunter gets her finger chopped off, and he always fantasized about it being more extreme.  

The closest it ever gets to explaining anything is one bizarre line about the color blue (Aubrey) being first place and red (Dakota) being second place, and second place is not good enough for the killer.  Not only does this not really make any sense, but it comes dangerously close to having a character acknowledge the thematic motif of the movie.  It’s like Laurie Strode saying that the events in HALLOWEEN really mirror her conflicted feelings about sex.   

I would be amiss not to mention another delirious aspect of the film: Lindsay Lohan is the worst stripper in the history of cinema.  Predictably, she follows the tradition of high profile actresses playing strippers who do not actually strip.  She can’t even be called an exotic dancer, because nothing she does during her performances can be construed as dancing.   It’s more like staggering away from a car accident.  Was she specifically instructed to move as slowly as possible and avoid even the hint of rhythm?  She is so lethargic that I expected part of her routine to be laying down for a nap.  It makes Grace Jones’ striptease from VAMP look like an erotic masterpiece.  The crowd in that part of town must be hard up for adult entertainment, because they go crazy for her.  Maybe the club caters to necrophiliacs.  Look how little she’s moving.  That’s so hot. 

I KNOW WHO KILLED ME was not a rousing success when it was released, or any time since.  Perhaps it was too torture porny, a trend waning in popularity at the timePerhaps the baffling stupidity rubbed people the wrong way.  Perhaps America wasn’t ready to see the squeaky clean Disney nice girl Lohan as a drugged out mess.  Lohan was clearly ready, since she continued her string of bad behavior into the movie’s unofficial sequel, LINDSEY LOHAN’S LIFE, including many guest appearances in police mug shots and rehab clinics.  (Don't worry, she outgrew that phase and is back to acting, fashion designing, and designing spray-on tan products.)  Director Chris Sivertson didn’t become a household name, except in the house that held the Razzie awards.  He’s still active in films, but with much smaller scale projects, like co-directing ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE with indie horror prince Lucky McKee.  Writer Jeff Hammond went on to do nothing in cinema ever again, at least under that name.  It’s a pity, I would have liked to see what other works of inspired lunacy he could have created.  I KNOW WHO KILLED ME was an ambitious failure.  It reached for the stars, didn’t see the curb, and fell into the gutter.  And then was peed on by a drunken hooker.  It was a trainwreck, but I’ll take that over boring and predictable any day. 

C Chaka   

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