J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Fantasia ’15: Lady Psycho Killer

This college coed’s pathological aversion to men is not the product of freshmen indoctrination programs (although that probably did not help matters). She is quite literally insane, but do not judge her too harshly. Maniacal killing runs in her family. Montreal’s loutish frat boys are in for the slice & dice treatment in Nathan Oliver’s satirical Lady Psycho Killer (trailer here), which screens today during the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in that very same Montreal.

Ella is suspiciously naïve and socially stunted. It is not just because she was home-schooled by her clingy mother. There is something off about her that her “edgy” psych professor will inadvertently turn loose. The only assignment of Prof. Douglas’s introductory class is to do something outside your normal bounds of behavior and write a paper about it. Ella decides to go to a strip club. Good choice.

Of course, when the manager inevitably starts sleazing on her, Ella ends up offing the creep. There is a lot of blood, but she likes it. Soon, she starts prosecuting her private war on the sexes, one sexually overbearing scumbag at a time, or in some cases, two at a time. However, she is not sure what to do with Daniel, the lacrosse-playing frat boy. He seems to genuinely like her—and he might be even shier than her. Eventually, her mother realizes what Ella is up to, but she understands. Her long absent father was the exact same way.

Somehow Oliver and co-screenwriter Albert I Melamed pull off quite a nifty trick in LPK. They have written a film all about gender politics that touches on just about every hot button social issue you can think of, yet it never comes across as didactic or hackneyed. The gory humor undoubtedly helps a lot. The crazy casting is also sure to please genre fans. If you have Michael Madsen, Malcolm McDowell, Daniel Baldwin, and Ron Jeremy on your Rotisserie B-movie team, than LPK will score you a lot of points, including a bonus for McDowell serving as executive producer.

The idea of Michael Madsen as an aging hipster freshman psych professor should unnerve any parent. Even though he tries to play it straight, it is hard not to laugh during his scenes. Be that as it may, nobody can top Kate Daly’s big screen debut as Ella. She is over-the-top nuts, but still projects a sense of pathos, while also nailing some wickedly droll narration. It is sort of like Reese Witherspoon’s arrival in Legally Blonde, but with buckets of blood.

To its credit, the humor in LPK is consistent funny and it flows organically from the dramatic situations, reflecting a fan’s appreciation of the slasher genre. Despite its themes and motifs, it never feels like a Ms. Magazine article grafted onto a psycho killer story. It gets everything right that a film like Girls Against Boys gets wrong. In fact, it is quite a bit of fun in a grisly, blood-splattered kind of way. Recommended for fans of sardonic horror films, Lady Psycho Killer premieres this evening (8/2), after services, at this year’s Fantasia.

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