Thursday, September 18, 2008

Vamp or Not? Killer X


This was a 1999 film directed by Mark Lambert Bristol and mentioned a little while ago by friend of the blog Ordovicius who left the following question “have you seen Killer X with David Carradine as a less than mentally stable FBI agent convinced that he is a vampire hunter?” Well, truth be told I hadn’t even heard of the film but, having spotted it for an incredibly cheap price, I had to check it out.

Now this would seem simple, in the ‘Vamp or Not?’ stakes, as in The Rules of the Game I suggest “Sometimes it is not necessary to have someone pretending to be a vampire or even believing themselves to be one. A film such as Isle of the Dead (1945) is most definitely a vampire movie, though there is not a single vampire in it. This movie relies on the hysteria that, in the past, probably gave birth to the legends of vampire outbreaks.

David Carradine as Special Agent Louis DehovenThings are not that simple however. The V word is not mentioned in the film and perhaps what Special Agent Louis Dehoven (David Carradine) sees may not necessarily be a vampire – let us explore a film that is, in truth, more a quirky black comedy about serial killers than a monster flick.

There is an intriguing opening to the film. We start on a straight to digi-cam shot of a redneck hunting party. These were cousins of a man named Willie (Michael Bowen), who happens to be our serial killer. A documentary is being produced (presumably locally) about the killer. The film is interspersed with the documentary giving us a duel insight as we both follow the events as they occur and watch the aftermath in documentary style.

Lynchian openingCut to film rather than digi-cam and we see an almost Lynchian, idyllic town. Children skip and jump and a man reads a newspaper with the headline ‘killings continue’. I say almost Lynchian as whilst David lynch will juxtapose that almost idyllic small town America against the evil or corruption beneath (the opening of Blue Velvet is a prime example) this almost tried too hard, reaching for something that Lynch just does and thus is a little in your face whilst Lynch can be a lot more subtle.

Next we see a funeral for a victim and a TV crew outside. One of the attendees, Glenn (Darren Burrows), stops to be interviewed. In a house, at night, a man is bound, gagged and blindfolded, and yet tries to escape. He fails.

Dehoven at the crime sceneWe have a host of styles competing here and, for the most part, they work. After the credits we see Special Agent Dehoven (David Carradine) enter the house and find the man, now dead. Having cut briefly to Glenn and his girlfriend Marie (Missy Atwood) talking about the murders we see the crime scene again. The police are there and Dehoven arrives, acting as though he had not been there earlier. He is not taking over the investigation – he says and promptly does so – and mentions the killer will be hard to find, his kills are not sexual in nature.

Willie is known as the Mailman, and is a mailmanWhat we get is Willie, the serial killer (known as the Mailman) whose wife, Sally (Elizabeth Barondes), has just announced that she is pregnant. After bumping into each other in the park Willie has selected Glenn as his next victim. As it happens Glenn is also a, fledgling, serial killer who has chosen Willie as his first victim. However we, in the context of this article, are more interested in Dehoven.

blessing stakesFirst thing of note was Dehoven in his motel room praying for guidance. We are in full religious nut job mode. He self flagellates and has papered the walls with pages from the bible. However we also note that he prays that his weapons be blessed – his weapons being a pair of stakes.

Now Willie’s modus operandum is to take the head of his victim (and mail it) but Dehoven obviously arrived at his last kill and disturbed it. Dehoven arrives at the morgue and then tells the guard that the body has been desecrated. As the guard enters he knocks him out and sets to work.

a gimpse of the monsterHe goes to the victim and sprinkles water over him – presumably holy water. The lips of the corpse seem to twitch. Then he changes, becoming some form of monster (Dehoven’s description). A pale, almost glowing, demonic creature with lots of sharp pointy teeth. It grabs Dehoven who starts staking it through the heart. Once staked it becomes an ordinary corpse once more.

staking the corpseWhilst the word vampire is not used and the form is a little more demonic we have a classic Van Helsing type scene here, a release of the soul of a victim through the stake, who was becoming the vampire by being killed by the vampire. Dehoven and the film never describe it as such – though the novel of Dracula is mentioned during the film as one of the classics (alongside Moby Dick). On the other hand it might be less release of the soul and more release of the body from whatever possesses it… as the film is not explicit both theorems could be valid.

seeing Willie in monster formLater Dehoven comes face to face with Willie and the man himself changes, taking on full demonic form – though not attacking. It is quite apparent that the monsters are in Dehoven’s head. However he does spot the killer, absolutely perfectly, through this method. Perhaps it is his subconscious telling the conscious what it needs to know.

law enforcement Dehoven styleUnfortunately it does mean that Dehoven tends to use unusual methods to bring his man in. Having shot up, and blown up, Willie’s car, we see the marvellous shot of Dehoven, in the sunset, with stakes ready as he prepares to pounce from his own car. His attack fails and I mention this as the death of Dehoven is interesting. He ends up staked by one of his own stakes. However, it is not through the heart but in the neck. This is, of course, reminiscent of the vampire bite.

Michael Bowen as WillieIs the film vampire genre? Dehoven believes there are monsters. He does not mention vampires but the method he uses to despatch them is pure vampire genre lore. I would have to say that this needs to go on vampire filmographies. As for the film itself, imdb thoughts seem split but I rather enjoyed it as a quirky black comedy.

The imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

I also got this one cheap somewhere, probably in Woolworths for a quid or two (otherwise I probably wouldn't have bothered). After watching it twice I've decided that I love the film.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

It does have a certain something (especially for 49p with £1.20 postage).

I did enjoy it - thanks again

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled across your site. I am glad you and your mates enjoyed the film.

Mark Bristol

Taliesin_ttlg said...

thanks Mark for a film that deserves to be more widely known.