Socialist Worker

The Killer Inside Me: A disturbing portrayal of the abuse of women

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2202

Kate Hudson and Casey Affleck in The Killer Inside Me

Kate Hudson and Casey Affleck in The Killer Inside Me

Based on a 1952 pulp noir novel of the same title, The Killer Inside Me is set in small town Texas. Men take their hats off when they go indoors, call women “ma’am” and smoke cigars.

This is the classic setting in which twisted and soulless events are played out. Central to the plot is the systematic abuse of women in “consensual” sexual relationships.

Lou (Casey Affleck) is a deputy sheriff. His life has been one of sexual abuse, mainly as a perpetrator.

Lou is sent to tell Joyce (Jessica Alba), a prostitute, to stop making her activities so visible. On their first meeting they get into a physical fight – Lou whips her with his belt and then they have consensual sex. This is the beginning of a dark relationship.

Lou’s fiancé Amy (Kate Hudson) sticks by him. He also beats her as part of their sexual entanglement. Both women are portrayed as complicit in the abusive relationships they are tangled up in.

The resistance they offer to his advances is seen as part of the game.

There are truly horrific scenes of violence against women. During the screening I attended at least two people walked out.

The Killer Inside Me is seen entirely from Lou’s perspective.

He is the narrator and present in every scene. This becomes suffocating as his acts of brutality become more frequent and inexplicable.

As a viewer it is easy to feel isolated from the film – there is no social or class context, or shots of the town as a whole, only of the places Lou visits.

It is impossible to relate to any of the characters apart from the abused women.

The film is a straight reproduction of the novel and while it doesn’t praise it, neither does it criticise.

Michael Winterbottom has said, “People fuck up, people destroy lives, people, for whatever reason, are destructive.”

If the premise of the film is that there is a bit of Lou in all of us, then I think people should go and see films that have a higher opinion of humanity – and women in particular.

The Killer Inside Me
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Out on 4 June

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Tue 18 May 2010, 17:44 BST
Issue No. 2202
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