Before discussing Kill Me Now, I must state that I am a pretty big fan of Cracked.com. This film was written by and stars Cracked.com columnist Michael Swaim (After Hours, Agents of Cracked). There are bit roles for Cracked.com regulars Katy Stoll (Those Aren’t Muskets) and Katie Wilbert (After Hours), and there is a cameo near the end by Daniel O’Brien (Those Aren’t Muskets, After Hours). Most of the people that write regularly at Cracked.com are thanked in the credits, all having some small role in helping some way.
I mention this because I cannot imagine anyone who isn’t a fan of Cracked enjoying this film. It is very much in their style, and although directed by Travis Long, it is truly Michael Swaim’s film. For those that like things in Cracked’s unique style, this is a very, very, very good thing.
The plot is like oh so many horror flicks: some kids decide to go to a cabin in the woods, but SURPRISE!!! Psycho killer comes to fuck them up! Unlike most films with this description, this is almost a straight comedy, and any horror elements are accompanied with quite a bit of campy fun. All of the actors, supposed to be 16-17 year olds, are clearly 30-somethings, making all of their actions absolutely ridiculous. I say that in the best possible way. Seeing a bunch of 30-somethings attempting to buy beer ‘underage’ is a truly beautiful thing to see.
IMDB lists the budget for Kill Me Now at $90 thousand, which is incredibly small. It shows at parts. Is that a bad thing? In a film like this, not at all. It adds to the campiness of the horror aspects of it. At a certain point in the movie, about half way through, a bear is shown, and it looks incredibly, incredibly fake. That is twice as fake as it would be were it merely incredibly fake. This adds to that artificial feeling, the feeling that everything happening is not real, which is created by Long. Why is it like that? While budget constraints would make an animatronic or CGI bear unavailable, and a real bear probably would have killed everyone (and Long is supposedly not a sadistic bastard), I feel that there is a a certain amount of intention behind it.
Long wants to create a world that mocks and criticizes the culture of ours, from the kids that go out to abandoned cabins in the wood to party, to the adults who want to act like kids, to clichéd backstories for the villains in our slasher flicks. However, in doing so, he needed to create a sense of security. We see the killer with a knife, we see a bear crawling towards someone… we do not view it as if it is actually happening. Why, I ask again? If the viewer felt something for characters that would be killed or if the viewer believed that there was a psycho that talked to a picture of his dead parents, the viewer would not be laughing quite as much.
For this film to work, Long needs the viewers to laugh. If the viewers do not laugh, then they are either a) bored, or b) scared. If the answer was A, then the film fails for obvious reasons. If the answer is B, then it becomes slightly more complex. If this particular film scared someone, then the criticism on contemporary culture went over that person’s head. The laughter created allows one to realize how absurdly stupid some parts of our culture is, from ironic T-shirts to the stereotype of hipster-culture. This is a prime example of humorous satire, which would not work if it was not humorous.
Fortunately, it is. In addition to writing the film, Michael Swaim plays one of the two leading roles. It is obvious that he understands his lines and their full potential, as he steals most every scene that he can. He plays the quirky best friend to Jacob Reed’s character, being incredibly witty AND likable, a surprisingly difficult task in film right now for some reason. Speaking of Jacob Reed, he plays the main character, a teen that has poor luck with the ladies. He is the typical horror film main character, and he does not do anything particularly special with the role. That does not matter, fortunately enough, as he was intended to be played like that. The supporting cast is where it is at in this film.
The killer, the Driller Killer, played by Brett Fancy ( Yes, that IS his actual name) is incredibly fun. He is essentially a collection of horror tropes blown up as much as possible. He is psychotic, he has a bad temper, he has a pedo-van, he is schizophrenic (talking to a portrait of his dead parents, as I previously mentioned), and so on. Why does it work? Because of both Swaim’s script and Fancy’s skills. He seems to believe his character, playing it as best as I believe is possible.
There are other standouts in the cast of Kill Me Now, including but not limited to Daniel Rubiano, Nick Mundy, and Beck Bennett as the alpha-male football douches, Katy Stoll as a cashier, and Kyle Moony as a stoner with a dark secret. They all do well in their respective roles and make the film work. If this film is the first one that Michael Swaim wrote, it is clear that he has a great, great future in film, and I am looking forward to seeing what he does next.