VHS Fridays fell by the wayside while all the year-end shit was going on, but it is now a New Year, so let's get back on track. The random title I picked off the shelf this time was one I acquired recently called The Killing Kind from 1973.
After two years in prison for rape, Terry (John Savage) returns to his overbearing mother's (Ann Sothern) boarding house, but it is not long for his uncontrollable impulses start to resurface.
The Killing Kind certainly doesn't waste any time as it goes from zero to gang rape in fifteen seconds flat. That's got to be a record, as not even the sleaziest of rape revenge films – which this isn't – don't get to it that quickly. I mean geez, even in Arthur Jeffrey's Demented, Sally Eylse at least got to visit her horse first. It's by no means a pretty opening, but it certainly sets the tone for the kind of characters I'd be hanging with for the next ninety minutes.
Despite where things inevitably go, there was an escalation to the piece. In the opening scene, Terry is physically forced into having sex with the girl by the other boys, and the first animal that he kills is arguably by accident. Before he actually murders anyone, there is the hope that he might be able to resist his dark urges. It was this exploration that made me think there was some actual behavioural research done by the filmmakers. Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho was an obvious influence as well, most plainly revealed in the bathtub murder scene where a similar musical motif can be heard.
|John Savage as Terry in The Killing Kind|
I guess what surprised me was the overt absence of morality in this movie. I mean, I expected that from Savage who I've always associated with unhinged hard cases, but most of the other characters in the film are just as unsavoury. Sothern's turn as Terry's mother, Thelma certainly recalls the nature vs. nurture argument as Terry goes so far as to flee the house screaming to get away from her smothering. Sothern reminded me of Susan Tyrell in 1982's Night Warning, except in this case, the son was even more dangerous. I'm not sure which scenes made more uncomfortable, when these two were fighting, or when they were “canoodling.”
To be honest though, I think the most horrifying character was Terry's voyeuristic neighbour Louise, played by Roger Corman regular Luana Anders. Her repressed and stuffy exterior – which made her look way older than the thirty-five she actually was – hides some pretty scary stuff as evidenced in her poolside confessions to Terry like “it must be wonderful being raped” and “I want to put ground glass in my father's food.” Louise is sadly one of several rather unflattering female characters. Tina, (Sue Bernard) the girl assaulted in the first scene becomes the town bicycle and the new border Lori, (Cindy Williams) the only seemingly well-adjusted person in the whole movie, meets a brutal end by being so naïve, it bordered on retardation.
|Cindy Williams as Lori in The Killing Kind.|
All of this adds up to a rather nasty film. It's not particularly violent – certainly not by today's standards – but there's an element of chaos that permeates the whole movie. Thelma lives for her son and everyone else be damned, Louise is trapped in her joyless existence and lashes out uncontrollably, and Terry's just runs on instinct having, for some reason, left his conscience back in his jail cell. The Killing Kind is a pretty dour affair, but I appreciated the fact that it was much more of a character piece than I was expecting.