The Killer Inside Me
Dir. Michael Winterbottom
It is very easy to pick up on the most sensational aspects of a film, mention them out of context, and cause a little stir in the media. This is the case for The Killer Inside Me and all involved must have been grateful for the publicity. However, it is the smaller details that are of real interest.
When Lou Ford, as far is he is concerned, beats his secret mistress Joyce Lakeland to death not a spot of blood spoils his white shirt-front. He is sweating profusely but you imagine that his heartbeat is only raised by the exertion involved, not emotion.
Lou is a compelling depiction of emotional detachment, of sociopathy. Many thrillers court Freudian speculation but few go so far as to join up the lines. Lou is not a trigger-happy sheriff (even if he does wear his badge pinned to his boxers during his numerous liasons with Amy and Joyce) but a consumate politician who reassures his flock that he doesn’t need to carry a gun due to the low crime rate.
Lou is shown as educated, even refined. He is the son of a doctor, conspicuously enjoys classic music, plays piano and is even a bit of a reader. When he takes down a copy of the bible from the book-lined walls of his study, it is very pointedly next to a volume of Freud. Within the pages of the bible he finds photos of his mother, these of course are not happy family snaps but show lash marks to her backside.
As is often the case with crime narrative, female characters are fairly two-dimensional but far from naive. Amy anticipates Lou’s downfall, and had she not said her goodbyes on his kitchen floor, would have approached it with a careful tread. Likewise, Joyce, who can be seen as the trigger for Lou’s behaviour by reacting to his polite facade with a potent mix of violence and sexuality, does learn when to play her cards close to her chest.
Lou is a master at keeping clean, even close-range shots never spatter his immaculate appearance with something as expendable as human blood. Lou’s carefully maintained friendships are essential to his evasion of justice; Johnnie Pappas is so intimidated that he favours hanging himself rather than denouncing him. There are many suave detective- types who can circumstantially involve Lou with the murders but really it is his sexual desires that incriminate him.
The lash marks found on Amy match those of Joyce and that is his fingerprint as a murderer. The desire to inflict pain and suffering can only be satisfied by these women who are aroused by Lou’s misogynistic behaviour, a trait that has been bred in him by a maternal figure.
The frontier aspect of The Killer Inside Me is hard to ignore, stetsons are hung from the ends of diner booths and Lou spends much of his posing as a possessed lone-ranger, at one with his car and the road. As are the film’s pulp fiction roots which Winterbottom clearly references with the lurid opening graphics. This is slick but cutting stuff and certainly a strong enticement to read Jim Thompson’s fiction to see how deep the vein really runs.