Monday, October 23, 2023

Reid Ramsey on Kill Your Lover (2023) Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2023

Dakota is determined to break up with her controlling boyfriend Axel. Sure, he was great when they met, the sex was great, he had money, he accepted her as she was. But as their relationship progressed, he showed more of his true personality, slowed down and tried to control her lifestyle, and judged the person she is and was. So, with the encouragement from her friend and former roommate, Rose, Dakota really wants to break up with Axel. There’s only one problem: Axel has a mysterious infection that’s poisoning his veins, giving him super strength and burning everything that his skin touches. 

Keir Stewart and Alix Austin, the directing duo and real-life couple at the helm of Kill Your Lover, set out to make a single-location thriller for their first feature that was all about a couple growing apart. They succeeded, and then some. 

The performances of Dakota (Paige Gilmor) and Axel (Shane Quigley Murphy) are excellent and enough to carry the movie without a large supporting cast. They succinctly show the progression of a relationship from that hot and heavy honeymoon phase to the boredom and frustration that could come later. They do so believably and we are left understanding their relationship but rooting for Dakota’s swift exit.

At a breezy 77 minutes, the tight horror film made for a perfect opening night at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, offering everything from relationship drama to stomach-turning gore. Outside of the baseline thrills, though, it was refreshing to see a horror movie as interested in form as Kill Your Lover. Many modern horror films care so deeply about showing you something horrific or disgusting, they put little thought into how they show something horrific and disgusting. Stewart and Austin crafted a thoughtful film that cares as much about the style of the flashback love-scenes as it does about bones breaking and blood dripping. 

While I really hope that Kill Your Lover eventually finds a solid streaming audience, it’s a movie that plays best in a theater — especially one jaw-dropping scene that takes place in a bathroom. The packed house at opening night laughed and cheered and seemed to love pretty much every second of it. 

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