The Killer Inside Me (2010) is about small town deputy who is an all-round good-guy and Southern Gentleman hiding a secret. Well, actually not that much of a secret, given the title of the movie. In the film we see Casey Affleck driving around a slow, sleepy Texan oil community, sent by the sheriff to “persuade” working girl Jessica Alba to leave town. Instead they fall for each other and begin a violent sado-masochistic romance. As the movie progresses, the bland, amiable layers of Affleck’s character are peeled away to expose the compulsive killer beneath; echoing the deputy from King’s The Dead Zone (1983). Unfortunately, the romance is doomed and, through a series of escalating acts of violence by Affleck, we begin to realise that Alba is living on borrowed time.
One of the reasons that this movie has been panned, is that there is a specific and extremely brutal scene that some have used to level criticisms of misogyny against Winterbottom because they feel that it glorifies violence against women. I, for one, did not feel this. The only real problem I had with the scene was that it completely alienated me from the protagonist who commits the vile act; making it difficult to empathise with Affleck’s character for the rest of the film. The scene is also protracted, but it has to be in order to ensure that we, the audience, are sickened and appalled, and finally able to see the true madness of the killer.
This movie ticks all the right boxes for noir. It is gritty and slightly detached from reality, as is the killer. Also, in the great tradition of noir, it manages to reveal the putrid interior of bright, sun-kissed locales as do films like China Town (1974) and, more geographically relevant, Blood Simple (1984) which is also set in Texas.
Finally, back to that theory of Richard the III as an appealing psychopath. In contrast to Shakespeare’s Richard, both Mary and Lou are numb, empty beings. They may look superficially attractive, but lack any connectivity to the rest of humanity. Richard, however, is the polar opposite. He isn’t much to look at, but his gleefully manipulative and ruthless character traits do not seem like a ‘disorder’ at all. While all three works, strive to entertain, I think that only Richard the III succeeds fully, despite its obvious propaganda. This is because it allows the audience to emphasise with its protagonist, something no one can really do with Mary or Lou.