Unless you were living in a cave during 2010, I’m sure that you have heard about the hugely controversial thriller, The Killer Inside Me – a film which has sparked serious debates around the world due to its violent content, mainly directed towards women. Should it have been banned? Is it ‘glamorising’ sexual violence? Is it right to describe a film like this ‘entertainment’? What exactly is it about this film which has caused such an uproar, from both male and female viewers, alike?
Whilst I am fairly used to seeing violence against females in pretty much every horror film ever made, not since Gaspar Noe’s notorious Irreversible had I felt so uncomfortable watching a couple of the scenes in this movie. The strangest thing is, that considering the state of horror at the moment, The Killer Inside Me was fairly tame violence-wise, but I feel that what makes everyone so angry here is the fact that the women seemed to be willing participants in the violence that befell them. I sat there watching Jessica Alba literally (and I mean literally!) getting her face beaten to a pulp and she didn’t even try to defend herself, flinch or run away, scream out in protest, anything, as any ‘normal’ person would, and I felt myself getting more and more frustrated with what I saw. But ultimately, as director Michael Winterbottom points out in various interviews afterwards, that is exactly the point. His justification for these grotesque, abhorrent scenes is to show that sexual violence isn’t pretty, it isn’t clever, it isn’t fun. He claims to be showing sexual violence ‘as it really is’.
I do totally understand this viewpoint, that one must be brutal to really get peoples attention, that it isn’t until people can explicitly see what’s right under their noses that they acknowledge that there really is a serious issue at hand. My problem with this though, and perhaps I’m just being a little thick here, is that I do already know that sexual violence isn’t pretty or clever or fun. I already know that (unfortunately) there are some men out there who feel the need to ‘assert’ themselves over women by displaying their physical strength. I already know that domestic and sexual violence are huge problems worldwide. The majority of people do actually know this stuff already. I really don’t need a film highlighting that for me, no matter how well made it is (and I’m sure a lot of other viewers will concur with this!). Why not stop dwelling on the problem and instead look at how it can be solved – or is that just a barmy notion? Making these sorts of films doesn’t solve anything, ok so perhaps it raises awareness, but in some ways I feel that it just perpetuates the cycle. Stop portraying women as helpless victims and then they’ll stop getting treated like them. Sounds silly, but it’s worth a try.
I have always been fascinated by ‘the public’s’ reactions to films, and in a way, I enjoy reading about movies just as much as I do watching them. The way that a mere piece of video footage can spark such strong feelings in audiences, that a fictional story can be deemed so controversial as to provoke a national (or even global) outcry. It really is incredibly powerful when you think about it.
Putting aside the overt misogynist overtones for a minute, the film did have an interesting plotline to it. We spend most of it following a completely sadistic psychopath as he attempts to balance his policing duties and generally civilised lifestyle, with a much darker, savage side (in which the viewer is subjected to a generous amount of screentime featuring abusing women). As we are usually placed in the victims shoes in films like these, it was somewhat different and fresh to see this alternative perspective, especially one which is so utterly alien to our own.
The bottom line is that, yes, this film is excessive – it doesn’t take a genius to work that out. But should it be banned, as some people suggest? Absolutely not. The Killer Inside Me is not at all a bad film. It’s a truly horrific watch and haunted me for days after watching (two scenes particularly stood out for me, somewhat tarnishing the rest in my memory). However, I strongly disagree with the claims that this film will encourage the behaviour exhibited by Casey Affleck (who did a fantastic job acting it, I must confess). There is nothing there that promotes sexual violence, and if some people really did get ‘turned on’ by what they saw then they were probably a tad messed up before they got anywhere near this movie.