You can’t make a cult film. They just sort of happen. Killing Machine wants with every ounce of its blurry, pixilated self to be a cult classic, but desire isn’t enough. It has a decently interesting idea—Tetsuo: The Iron Man meets teenaged prostitution in Korea—but I’ve seen movies made in friend’s basements that were better than this. In fact, I’ve seen movies made in friend’s bathrooms that were better than this.
The story’s simple(minded). A girl in high school turns tricks at night for extra money. One of her regular customers is also one of her teachers. She’s also in love with him. She gets on his bad side one night when she entertains one of her clients in front of his mother’s house. Her punishment for this is to be blown apart with a shotgun and then sawed into pieces by three giggling goons. Some other people stitch her back together and turn her into an assassin as per La Femme Nikita. She then goes gunning for the goons and her teacher. They die. You now have an hour of your life back.
I’d been warned going in that this was a low-to-no-budget production. Fear not, said I. After stuff like Love Song for Rapper, which was also shot on DV and probably cost about twelve bucks, most of that for the blank tape, I’d learned the only stigma of a low budget comes from working against it rather than with it. There are times when they do this: every now and then a striking image swims out of the murk—only to vanish once again. But the vast majority of the film’s a blurry, blocky mess. Most shots look like they were filmed off a TV on the other side of the room with an inverted shotglass over the lens.
There are a few things that work. There is a monologue by the girl—in closeup, with soaring classical music underneath—that starts off touching and turns by degrees into searing black comedy. I liked how the “surgery” to put the girl back together is accomplished by a grandmotherly old woman with her pedal-powered sewing machine, and the first short of the reconstructed girl bears more than a passing resemblance to the robot Maria from Metropolis. They are pieces that belong in a better movie.
And in the end, it’s a real shame this isn’t a better movie. It’s tough to get any movie made at all, but this one’s amateur night through and through. Worst of all, it’s slow. For a movie with only an hour’s running time, Killing Machine is draggy and shamelessly padded out; the opening credits alone run to nearly six completely static minutes. This is the sort of film where you sit there, trapped in front of it, reshooting the whole thing in your head while you watch because that’s the only escape route left.