Director- Ben Woodiwiss
Starring- Pauline Cousty, Canielle Hoppe, Kristina Dargelyte
Benny (Cousty) is a university student on a film theory course hoping to break the mould of the course by making an actual film, a horror film or as she puts it a “Meta horror film….a horror film about horror film.” This is much to the disapproval of the university board who want her to study theory and hand in essays. Yet she is determined to maintain her vision along with her course colleague Alex (Dargelyte).
In the meantime she goes from couch to couch, staying round at Uni friend’s houses, without no accommodation of her own, wandering the streets on occasion and pick pocketing strangers house keys, following them and returning back to said homes when unoccupied and stealing food and items to sell off to maintain an increasing cocaine addiction. All the while she is trying to create her film her lifestyle, which is living on the fringes of society starts to fracture her personality and her life starts to slowly unravel through her self destruction.
The only strong relationship she maintains is with her mother (Hoppe) who is a former drug addict herself and is still occasionally using and who may be the reason that Benny is living an unhinged reckless lifestyle, though as the film progresses and through uncomfortable dream/nightmare sequences we start to get an idea that there is more to Benny than meets the eye and something darker has affected her in the past.
Being more of a psychological drama/character study, BENNY LOVES KILLING, which is Ben Woodiwiss’ first feature, is an interesting and uncomfortable film, and even though it’s not primarily horror there is a certain darkness in watching this character’s life self destruct and unravel in front of us. Cousty’s performance is brilliant, at once making us unsympathetic for her due to her stealing and selfishness, but then we end up sympathising and wondering where she will end up on her journey.
There’s a particularly good scene where while shooting her film Benny cannot get one of the actresses to go nude for a shower scene, and her loss of confidence in trying to resolve the situation, leaves her to get Alex to try and negotiate while she goes outside to do cocaine, emphasising the characters distancing and lack of interaction with other people and dependence on drugs to distance herself from her reality.
There are some strong performances from the cast all round including Hoppe as Benny’s mother whose own problems may have affected her daughter. Woodiwiss’s direction is solid and confident, using a gritty handheld style to plant the film in reality and static camera shots for the unnerving dream sequences, one of which I found particularly uncomfortable, and which in part emphasised the horror elements that can be found within this story.
Another interesting stylistic touch is too have many of the male characters not been shown on screen. Aside from a few characters, one of Benny’s University friends and some of the male cast of the film she’s making, most of the other male characters who are seen as a threat or like the University lecturers, seen as someone not believing in Benny or telling her where she’s going wrong, have their backs to us.
Overall Benny Loves Killing is a very good and solid debut feature showing much promise from Woodiwiss, and it will be interesting to see what his next film will bring and from this film alone, it would be interesting to see if he would go into making a straight up horror film. My only criticism of it is that it could be done with being a bit shorter with maybe 10 or 15 minutes taken out, and certain scenes to tend to drag on a bit, but this is slight criticism of a film that put me in mind, most of all, of films such as Abel Ferrera’s BAD LIEUTENANT (1992), and Simon Rumley’s RED WHITE AND BLUE (2010) or most recently Suri Krishnamma’s DARK TOURIST (2013).
These focus on characters living on the fringes of society who have distanced themselves from others, and have their own personal problems, whether drug addiction or psychological, and whose horror, lies within these characters unraveling through their own self destruction, and either trying to face some form of redemption or admission, or going all the way down to the abyss.