Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Film Review: Kalifornia (1993)

Kalifornia (Review)
United States/1993
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Streaming
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...the right blend of horror, psychology, and insight..."

In order to write an honest book about serial killers, Brian Kessler (David Duchovny) and his girlfriend, photographer Carrie (Michelle Forbes), travel across the country visiting infamous murder sites. The pair share the trip with Early (Brad Pitt) and his gal... unknowing of Early's psychotic tendencies...

Kalifornia continues to follow the two couples on their road trip. Carrie doesn't care for their road buddies, but Brian embraces them with open arms. But, as they travel further, they get some insight into their true characters, particularly Early's. Every now and then, Early slips into his serial killer mode and slaughters an unsuspecting victim. But, Kalifornia is not a slasher, the bulk of the film focuses on character, and it's interesting to see the various character arcs. Brian does things, like shooting a gun or drinking excessively, that show honest character development. The final act of the film becomes a little more of a slasher than expected, but it works out well.

Kalifornia is an effective psychological horror film. Now, this isn't a film about hallucinations or delusions -- that's not what I mean by psychological. Instead, this is a film that gets under your skin as it focuses on honest, believable characters. Some may be stereotypes, but there aren't any superheroes or villains. The concept is unique and creative, and well developed, despite some plot contrivances. I honestly thoroughly enjoyed the story. It's the right blend of horror, psychology, and insight; and it all blends to create an engaging and entertaining film overall.

However, there is one significant complaint: Carrie. Carrie is one of the most annoying characters ever captured on film. (maybe an exaggeration, but you get the point.) She's a complete buzz-kill with her annoying, pretentious stuck-up attitude. In fact, I'd say Early is a much more likable person than Carrie despite Early being the real antagonist. I can fully understand annoying characters in film when they serve a purpose. This character does not serve a purpose, but to annoy the audience with her smug facial expressions. Maybe it's to show the difference between Brian and Carrie, which would work, but for what purpose?

Anyway, Brad Pitt is fantastic in this role; he maybe too charismatic for the role, though, I shouldn't like Early more than Carrie. Michelle Forbes plays her character well, I can't fault her for the character she plays. David Duchovny is also great, but he lacks screen presence -- he's easily outshined by Pitt. The score was great. The film was also shot nicely. Dominic Sena's direction is great, delivering a consistent film and pulling great performances from the cast; it does feel like it lacked focus towards the end, but just a tiny bit. Otherwise, the film is technically up to par with most of the best 90s films.

Overall, Kalifornia is an effective serial killer horror film. It's a disturbing look at several characters and their actions, as well as insightful experience; it's not an encyclopedia of information, but you may learn a little something from Kalifornia. The film loses some steam and focus towards the end, and one character spoils the trip for everyone, but the bulk of the film is great.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, nudity and some sex.

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