Ben Woodiwiss’ first UK feature length film is a smart, visually stunning examination of one woman’s fight for her individuality against a bureaucracy that dismisses her and friends who do not understand, all the while struggling with self-destructive demons that threaten to unravel her world. It is also something of an analysis of genres and gender, and challenges our perceptions of stereotypical female roles.
Currently doing the festival rounds, Benny Loves Killing has already been nominated for Best Feature Film (60 DN) and won Best Horror Film (Oregon Independent Film Festival). However, strictly speaking this is not a horror but a mystery filled with suspense that has elements of the macabre and disturbing connotations.
Pauline Cousty is wonderful as tortured soul Benny, a drifting film student adamant to follow her dream of creating a meta-horror film despite red tape concerning her current course being theoretical rather than practical. Whilst dealing with the impeding threat of her funding being withdrawn, we are slowly exposed to her increasing reliance on drugs, her nonchalant approach to petty crime and the complicated relationship she has with her mother (Canelle Hoppé).
Whilst not particularly likeable, Benny is a fascinating character, uncomfortable in her own skin and in some ways quite infantile and naive in her approach to life and those around her. There is a running theme of childhood which ties in with a revelation as to what might have set her on this course to ruin.
Alongside this the film explores two other concepts – sexuality and money. The predominately female cast takes on some conventionally male roles, in particular that of sexual aggressor and paranoid drug dealer, whilst the few male characters are usually off screen looking on, seeking only to degrade Benny in one form or another which raises the audience’s sympathy for her despite her obvious flaws. Money is broached as a means to happiness and a a way of oppressing those without, her mother reminds us that ‘everything costs’ and many of Benny’s acquaintances use her poor financial situation in order to keep her subdued or take advantage of her helplessness.
The film is expertly paced, revealing itself piece by piece with multiple layers and opportunities for interpretation, which is a credit to the dynamic editing and writing style of Woodiwiss which keeps the story moving forward at a slow but tantalising speed. The imagery and use of colour is both chilling and beautiful, whilst the claustrophobic camera angles ensure we are always fully entwined with Benny’s state of mind. The supporting cast is good but it is Cousty that carries the film, her portrayal is subtle and thought provoking yet never overly dramatic.
The ending was powerful, given an earlier discussion in the film; however you will have to watch in order to further understand and discover whether Benny chooses redemption or continues on her downward spiral. Benny Loves Killing is a winning piece of Indie film making and we’re sure one that will continue to gain recognition as such.