What starts out as a promising teen slasher soon falls victim to its own narcissism.
Kill Me Please (ND/NF Review)
Almost as long as there has been teen angst, there have been films about teen angst. From Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause to Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, and including many in between and since, the teen angst film has been a moviemaking staple for six decades, offering insight into what teens go through during each film’s point in time. In most cases only the details change, as higher level themes of disaffection, identity crisis, and peer pressure have been common teen problems for generations. But those details are important, and can drive just how good a film is.
Kill Me Please is set in an affluent section of present-day Rio de Janeiro, where a clique of bored teenage girls finds titillation in a series of murders—murders that happen to be of other teenage girls. Facts are at a minimum but that doesn’t stop the rumor mill from grinding out plenty to quench their morbid fascination. As the body count rises, 15-year-old Bia’s (Valentina Herszage) obsession with the crimes and their victims grows too. Teens are still teens, though, and there is plenty else for them to cope with as they go about their daily high school lives.
The opening scene of Kill Me Please is terrific, showcasing the harrowing demise of a teenage girl whose only crime was walking home alone at night. Panic leads to pursuit, which leads to the girl’s final, fearful gaze into the camera and her piercing, dying screams. Neither the killer nor the girl’s blood is ever shown. The sequence is all atmosphere and adrenaline, recalling the openings of slasher flicks from the 1980s, and it’s an opening that will grab viewers from frame one.
With the opening gambit established, the film settles in, introduces its players—Bia, her girlfriends, her slacker brother João (Bernardo Marinho), her boyfriend Pedro (Vitor Mayer), a few other students—and delves into the daily drama of the young, rich, and beautiful, with diversions into the darker side of life with every new victim.
There are several films that come to mind when considering Kill Me Please. Its horror strains invoke thoughts of Brian de Palma’s Carrie; its beautiful and privileged teens having their lives jolted by death, and how reactions to death vary from teen to teen, harkens to Michael Lehmann’s Heathers; and João Atala’s lush and colorful cinematography calls to mind Benoît Debie’s lens work in Spring Breakers. Unfortunately, this film is nowhere near the level of any of those.
The problems begin early on, when the film doesn’t know when to stop settling in and eventually becomes stuck in a rut. Writer/director da Silveira parts ways with the slasher film motif (and all its promise) to handle things like character development and plot, of which there is very little. The teens’ lives include the expected, like sexual awakening, competitiveness in the athletic arena (handball), petty jealousy, passive/aggressive body shaming, religion, and rival cliques. These are all part of creating, wrestling with, and solving teen angst. The problem is how lifeless the characters are. Kids meant to be regarded as soulful or introspective instead come across as apathetic bores. Even Bia’s growing obsession with the murders never takes on any kind of intensity; it’s only an increased interest.
Because the director never returns to the intensity of his opening sequence, subsequent victims are shown after their demise, not during, or they’re simply talked about (save for a montage of their faces late in the film, only proving the dead were just as beautiful as the living). Some might consider this to be a less is more approach, but that sense is never conveyed. The murders are cold, distant events that lose all gravitas because they are talking points about murders, not the actual murders. The fact that there are adult characters in the film is an interesting and gutsy choice, but it strains credulity as the body count grows since no police ever show up.
Kill Me Please is a gorgeous-looking film that ultimately falls victim to its own narcissism, relying on its aesthetic so heavily that the function of its story is mostly an afterthought. After squandering an excellent beginning, it never recovers to offer a satisfying finished product.
Kill Me Please screens as part of New Directors/New Films in New York City. To learn more about the festival or buy tickets, visit www.newdirectors.org.