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.