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New Release Review - SERIAL KALLER (DVD)

Phone sex workers are stalked by a killer.



Review by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Directed by: Dan Brownlie

Starring: Debbie Rochon, Dani Thompson, Suzi Lorraine, Lucinda Rhodes



With the promise of gaudy kills galore as some nutcase picks off the beauteous presenters one by one, you’d imagine that Serial Kaller would at least have some tacky transgressive pleasures to offer within its micro-budget slasher stock. You’d be wrong.



Located in the shady, evocative subculture of Babestation-style televised sex line shows (a sort of interactive peep show where viewers ring up a cavorting lady and beseech them to shimmy about on the telly, and which costs about 10 pounds a minute: nice work if you can get it!), and with the promise of gaudy kills galore as some nutcase picks off the beauteous presenters one by one, you’d imagine that Serial Kaller would at least have some tacky transgressive pleasures to offer within its micro-budget slasher stock. You’d be wrong. Very quickly, Serial Kaller proves to be as dull, malign and empty as its tawdry subject matter.
The film does start with a certain exploitative promise, as the plot cuts to 30 years previous, where some lonely little boy sits in his room applying lipstick (oooh, what a mixed up kid!). I liked the attention to period detail here: the kid plays with a Rancor Star Wars toy, although he would have been better off in Jabba’s pit it seems, as his mother is a preening prima donna more interested in augmenting her figure with plastic surgery, and his older sister a bully who mocks him for the lippy, calling him a ‘retard’. Charming, yet perfectly in keeping with the outrageously undiplomatic views that slashers have regarding sexuality (shout out to Angela from Sleepaway Camp and, indeed, Norman Bates, the biggest mixed up kid of all). However, after the boy’s mum dies under the knife in the most unrealistic operation bed death ever committed to film (how can someone lying still be unconvincing?), there’s a fast edited credit sequence that brings us up to date, jam packed with sexy laydeez whose clothes have all seemingly fallen off, gory violence and raaaawk music. Being a male man and the presumed target audience of this dross, this is the sort of thing I’m supposed to love, yeah innit geezer eh lads?
It is surprising that a film full of absurdity, blood and nudity (although, to be fair, not all that much actual full on nakedness) would be so mundane, but there you go. Part of the problem is the weird self-loathing that the film has - the girls are all completely one dimensional harridans whose spite and superficiality make Nancy Allen’s crew in Carrie look like the Get Along Gang. But there’s also a reciprocal disparagement of the sort of people that ring into the show too - including, hilariously, consternation about a continual caller, a ‘stalker’, whom one of the girls worries could be a ‘bit weird’. Um, he’s a bloke ringing a stranger in the lonely hours in order to get off? There’s your first alarm bell, surely. It’s all a bit depressing. Star and co-scripter Dani Thompson has experience with the industry, but any satire or insight into the exciting world of women answering phones to lonely men at the bottom of the satellite channels is entirely mitigated by the film’s constant spectacle of women simply sitting around in nice lingerie while they mangle dialogue and apply make-up, paradoxically making this a film largely about women answering phones, to be watched by lonely men, who will have happened upon it whilst scouring the lower ranks of the satellite channels.
I’ve nothing against the boobs n blood genre, per se, (although, let’s face it, from Doghouse to Zombie Strippers, none are going to trouble the Oscars any time soon); just like football, lager and paintballing (why?), they’re not for me, but if other people like this sort of tosh, then who am I to complain? Serial Kaller is too inept to be in any way offensive, or, indeed, any way fun. There are really fascinating ideas to be mined here, and I can only imagine what Brian De Palma in his lurid pomp would have done with potential themes of voyeurism, dirty sex and films within films. Or even a De Palma imitator; however, Serial Kaller’s cine-literacy seems to extend no further than the clunky, bygone days of Electric Blue. Serial Kaller? Pretend you’re not in.
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