The Killer Inside Me review (DVD)

What do we find so fascinating about the dark side of the human psyche? While the televised 'social experiment' that was Big Brother may have descended into reality-TV farce, films that experiment with spiralling declines into madness are very popular, and often offer very compelling and intelligent psychological insights: Stand up and take a bow, Synechdoche New York.

The Killer Inside Me is none of those things. It declines to invade the psychology of a madman, but instead allows the madman's own inner voice to display his madness, to slowly peel back the onion-skin layers to reveal the black void that lies beneath. If that sentence came across as a bit pulp-y, that's because The Killer Inside Me is pulp. In fact, it is based on a popular 1952 novel by Jim Thompson, giving it premium pulp pedigree. And as Affleck's lazy drawl lulls you into a false sense of security, the delicious 1950's atmosphere of the film is allowed to wash over you. It's very prettily shot: it looks like every pulp book cover ever, re-animated in a modern electronic approximation of Glorious Technicolour.

The film is very faithful to the book, and Affleck is gleefully sinister as Lou, the small-town cop with a killer instinct. The supporting cast is very strong too, but Kate Hudson's performance is a cut above the rest as Lou's troubled girlfriend. It is also gleefully, wilfully dark. A particularly violent scene where Affleck beats up his prostitute lover Joyce Lakeland (Jessica Alba) goes on for far longer than even a hardened cinema-going audience is used to: in fact, the film takes care – literally – to pull no punches at any point. It revels in its viciousness, and the apocalyptic ending provides a suitably operatic climax.

It is a little slow-moving and repetitive in places. The detective story feels somewhat loose and tacked-on, and while Lou makes a terrifyingly irascible psycho, there is something alien about him that makes the character less scary and less believable: a supernatural evil, rather than a human weakness, drives him to kill. There is still a very enjoyable, and certainly memorable, if often uncomfortable viewing experience here. It's great pulp, though; fans of the genre shouldn't be disappointed

EXTRAS ★★ A 24-minute behind-the-scenes featurette; and interviews with cast members Affleck, Alba and Hudson.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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