I learned years ago that it is normal to have intrusive thoughts about death (If you’ve ever thought how easy it would be to hurt somebody close to you or how easy it would be to swerve your car onto a sidewalk, you’ve had an intrusive thought). It’s when these thoughts are mixed with some obsessive compulsive behavior that they become dangerous. Suddenly, the thoughts take over and all bets are off.
I often wonder how serial killers are made. Is it these “intrusive thoughts” on loop? Is it a disposition for violence? An overall numb feeling to the world around them? Was there a traumatic event (or a series of events) that can turn somebody towards this path? Is there a “Dark Passenger” as Dexter tells us? Is there any good in the killer?
The Orphan Killer introduces us to a brand new slasher “icon” (Marcus Miller) while effectively building a back story for him through flashbacks. There is no good left in this man. That was taken from him as a child.
As children, Marcus and his younger sister Audrey witness their parents’ deaths during a robbery. While Audrey recovers, Marcus toils in his anger and hatred. She is adopted, and he is left abused at the orphanage by the hands of nuns. Upon escaping this prison, he goes out looking for his sister.
Audrey has become a dance instructor at a Catholic high school. Although living a normal life, she still is haunted by the events of her childhood and nightmares alluding to something dark that lives inside of her as well.
Marcus Miller can officially be penciled in next to the other slashers of this genre. His back story is awful (countless years of abuse), and even worse when you consider what he implies when he talks. The mask design is one of the creepiest I’ve seen and looks like it belongs on stage at a Slipknot concert. He is pure brutality. He doesn’t show mercy to anybody, and you can see the anger he holds onto with every move. He does speak, but it’s not corny (well…not later NOES Freddy corny). It’s the words of a madman. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Audrey was an odd character to me. As I said, she is haunted by her past yet she chooses to make her life in the old orphanage her brother grew up in (that she lived in briefly). I’m guessing that she harbors a little guilt over her brother. As the movie progresses, a dark part of her rises that has always been just under the surface. She’s pushed it down. She shares her brother’s ability to take pain, and she share’s his survivalist mentality.
The movie opens with an updated version of Cry Little Sister (theme from The Lost Boys), and the soundtrack is all metal. It walks a line between being a slasher film and torture film, but it does do this nicely. The gore is heavy. I imagine this style was the way that Rob Zombie wanted to portray Michael Myers in his remake of Halloween. The back story is told in flashback pieces throughout the film, and is very effective as we see both stories progressing simultaneously. (It’s kind of confusing to talk about the movie though without revealing the story.)
There are a few things that didn’t work. The opening scene (a flash forward to a later scene in the film) is oddly shot. It would have been better had the director used the same angle he used later in the film, but I got over that quickly. Marcus’ lines were ok some of the time, and not others. The movie dealt with a lot of religious symbolism (because of the abuse needed to) which felt forced on occasion. The one I can think of specifically had me reminiscing about Sinead O’Conner’s appearance on Saturday Night Live. The priest wasn’t very good.
Audrey’s ability to take Marcus’ abuse is borderline supernatural. There is a scene with her hands that had me wincing in pain. These two spend a lot of time together, and they do play off each other well. I liked how she is portrayed as being haunted by violence despite living a fairly normal life (I’m assuming here.) after being adopted.
The Orphan Killer does not play as a traditional slasher film. It’s brutal, and Marcus Miller (The orphan killer... That chant gets stuck in your head.) is definitely an intriguing character. This movie is worth a look, but don’t build this movie up as “the greatest slasher film ever made”. It’s a good movie, but it has some weaknesses. If you’re looking to sit down and see some violence, this will do nicely.