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It’s often said that the creative process of filmmaking (or creating art in general) is enhanced when there is little money involved. The idea is that when a big budget is in place, creative solutions are replaced by throwing more money at a problem, and decisions are often fueled by end results rather than making the best product with the given resources. It’s this thought process that fuels the creativity of independent film, and one that drives the new micro-budgeted indy film Killer Kate! as a first time film containing fun homages and performances.
Killer Kate! is the first film made by creative duo writer/director Elliot and producer/actress Alexandra Feld. While it suffers from some of the typical issues found in first features, it has enough style, charm, and love put into it that it can’t help but be felt throughout portions of the movie.
The film is a familiar house-under-siege horror/comedy that contains plenty of blood and some surprising laughs, even if the two don’t gel well together. The titular Kate finds herself working a job and taking care of her father and is whisked away for a bachelorette retreat in a remote mountain home by her sister Angie with Angie’s friends in tow. Little do they know that a group of hapless would-be killers intends to make them victims as part of a larger, somewhat hilarious, motivation. To delve any deeper would be to give away some of the fun.
The cast is filled out with a group of relative unknowns who all do fairly well with what they’re given. Alexandra Feld makes for a solid lead, able to convey the underlying sadness of early family drama at the beginning only to turn into a strong wide-eyed heroin covered in blood later on. Other standouts include Abby Eiland as one of the brash bachelorette partygoers, Grant Lyon as the most neurotic and funniest of the antagonists, and Robert Donovan as a mysterious motel owner. Horror film mainstay Tiffany Shepis gets some great extended screen time as well, having fun swinging around an axe for once instead of having it swung at her.
What makes Killer Kate! enjoyable is seeing the clear love that director Elliot Feld has for the material at hand. The film is full of creative ways to stretch a small budget, and contains more than a few winking references to films and filmmakers of the past. Killer Kate! is littered with nods to Sam Raimi, John Hughes, and John Carpenter. A couple of its more creative flourishes feel right at home with films like Evil Dead and The Shining, with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off mixed in for surprisingly effective measure.
Blood and laughs pop up throughout the film in unexpected places, from a body that stays sitting up to a motive that is equal parts insane and believable. Despite not being overly gory, the film does feature a good amount of practical bloodshed, with Feld herself splattered with what appears to be gallons of the red stuff by the time the credits roll. Helping tie it all together is an impressive synth score by John Earl Hopkins that would make Carpenter proud.
The story itself, written by Elliot Feld and Daniel Moya, isn’t particularly new or unique, which actually made it welcome in my mind. So many independent films nowadays are weighed down by importance that it’s nice to see a goofy little bloody comedy come out with the intention of having fun. This film is simple, about a group of friends becoming unwilling victims to a gang of rejects for a grander plan, and it’s more comfortable because of that.
The biggest miss of the film is the tonal shifts, as things never really feel that horrific at any point in time. The group of killers in the film are inexperienced at best, and while that does make for interesting and funny situations, it doesn’t particularly make them menacing. I found myself laughing at them more than being scared of them, which makes it hard to take them seriously once blood starts flying.
Thematically, I appreciated the film for taking the time to build its characters up a bit. Killer Kate! runs on the shorter side of around 80 minutes, but still feels the importance of showing us that these characters have other things happening in their lives that make them feel real. Their dialogue and rapport feels genuine and the performances really help sell that. It’s a solid first effort that shows a high floor for the creators that give them a strong foundation to build upon.
The Final Pop
Killer Kate! serves as a loving homage to the genre in a first film effort from the duo of Elliot & Alexandra Feld. Stretching its micro budget over a familiar story, its tonal shifts whiff often on the horror but strike more frequently with the comedy. The film rises above its shortcomings with the help of fun performances, practical blood effects, and surprising bursts of comedy from unexpected moments. Microwaved Popcorn