KILLER OF MEN – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

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An unnamed man showers, dresses, and walks to the subway where he waits calmly for his next victim to appear. The particular man he sets his sights on appears to intuitively sense the risk, and when he is followed off the train, for one fleeting moment he mistakenly believes that he has shaken his stalker. But it is not to be, and the titular killer of men in the mononymous Tzvi’s debut feature film attacks the first of the film’s unfortunate victims.

In a powerhouse performance by Jon Peterson in the lead, from the very first frame his character doesn’t evoke pity exactly, but rather he emits a near overwhelming sense that this is a man truly exhausted by the coldness of urban life. He also has congenital analgesia – a rare condition where the sufferer is incapable of feeling physical pain – to which he seemingly has adapted by somewhat perversely afflicting extreme pain on others.

This is, however, until a random encounter at the local laundromat with a kind schoolteacher, Eva (Stacie Brown), adds an unexpected human connection into his life. Finding his grim habit hard to shake, the closer he and Eva become, the more he (and we) question what might be possible for him. But with a stream of corpses behind him and an increasingly suspicious colleague, the question of redemption may not be a luxury he has available to him.

Killer of Men is a taut, elegant low-budget feature where a confident grasp of the visual language of cinema speaks as much – if not more so – than narrative nuts and bolts like dialogue. Color communicates as much as words, with the cold green that saturates much of this bleak, lonely world disrupted by the warm browns and yellows that accompany Eva into our protagonist’s frame.

A careful, deft hand in the editing stage in particular creates movement and energy that swirl around this powerful portrait of a man stuck in limbo. Composer Ethan Statzman warrants particular mention here with the film’s score at its best containing a distinct neo-Badalamentian aspect, without ever feeling derivative. Indeed, music drives much of the emotion of the film largely in the place of dialogue; while there is some conversation, it is so limited and so sparse that it feels closer to poetry than conversation. Bring all these pieces together, and Killer of Men is a dark, sombre character study of urban masculinity in crisis.

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Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Alexandra Heller-Nicholas is a multi-award-winning film critic and author who has published nine books on cult, horror and exploitation cinema with an emphasis on gender politics, including the 2020 book ‘1000 Women in Horror, 1898-2018’ which was included on Esquire Magazine’s list of the best 125 books written about Hollywood. Alexandra is a contributing editor at Film International, a columnist at Fangoria, an Adjunct Professor at Deakin University, and a member of the advisory board of the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies (LA, NYC, London).