Stuart Gordon is a writer/director/producer of film, television and theater. He is best known for the cult classic Re-Animator and for murdering his wife Carolyn in his films whenever possible.
Many an H.P. Lovecraft story ends with the protagonist discovering that he is a blood relation to the grotesque monstrosity that has been terrorizing him. Strangely, this is the way I felt after examining the oddly crossed bloodlines that produced the new Indonesian horror film Killers (not to be confused with the 2010 Ashton Kutcher opus of the same name). But more about that later.
Directed by Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto, who call themselves the Mo Brothers, and written by Tjahjanto and Takuji Ushiyama (who also wrote the story on which the film is based), Killers tells the story of Bayu, a journalist (played by Oka Antara) who mysteriously receives a snuff film on his computer. A masked sadist tortures and then murders a young woman and Bayu assumes, as does the audience, that the film has been sent to him as a threat, to stop his investigation of Mr. Dharma (Ray Sahetapy), a powerful and corrupt industrialist.
Escaping Dharma’s thugs, who attempt to sodomize and murder him in a taxi (one of the film’s most powerfully disturbing scenes), Bayu starts receiving personal messages from the maker of the snuff film and eventually communicates with him directly. Ultimately, the reporter finds himself in league with the mysterious masked killer and is drawn into the intoxicating world of murder and mayhem as he first learns to experience the thrill of holding a human life in his own bloody hands.
We watch as this once morally upright crusading reporter changes into a dispassionate killer as cold-blooded as his serial killer co-conspirator. And it is no surprise that the price of joining forces with his perverse seducer will be the lives and wellbeing of his own wife and daughter. But his transformation also has the effect of causing the audience to lose any sympathy for our protagonist, who is becoming just as evil as his mentor and who, like him, even begins to wear a mask when he takes on the role of a murderer, losing the last shred of his humanity.
The performances are strong, particularly from charismatic Japanese actor Kazuki Kitamura as Nomura, the bored creator of snuff films. His enlisting of Bayu as a brother murderer seems to be giving them both a new lease on life. After all, how many women can you bludgeon to death with a hammer and dissolve in bathtubs full of acid? Nomura, the now-unmasked killer, seems genuinely proud of his new pupil’s atrocities as he guides him to savor the thrill of the hunt for more victims.
My only real criticism of the film is that it is overly and needlessly complicated. Trying to follow the many twists and turns of the plot often ends up causing confusion and exhaustion rather that increasing the tension. It makes you lose patience with the filmmakers and stop caring what happens next. Quentin Tarantino has said, “As a viewer, the minute I start getting confused, I check out of the movie. Essentially I’m severed.” And after a while I found myself on the outside of this film looking for a way back in.
And it doesn’t help that the movie is already over two hours and 15 minutes long. As Hitchcock once said, “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” But since this is only the Mo Brothers’ sophomore effort, perhaps we can hope that they will learn to be more economic with our time and enhance the power and effectiveness of their future films.
So what is the mysterious connection I discovered that somehow joins me at the hip to this Indonesian slasher? The simple answer is Brian Yuzna, the man who produced my first film, Re-Animator, over 30 years ago.
Since then, Brian and I have worked together on over half a dozen films. The last one was an adaptation of Lovecraft’s Dagon, which I directed and Brian produced for The Fantastic Factory, his newly formed division of the Spanish company Filmax, which produces a line of genre films for the international market. Brian worked in Spain for seven years producing dozens of films before beginning a new company, Kamodo, based in Indonesia. One of his first projects there was 2009’s Takut: Faces of Fear, an anthology film that included a segment by… guess who? The Mo Brothers.
So I must disclose that this makes these young Indonesian filmmakers my creative step-brothers, with the ubiquitous Mr. Yuzna as the missing link.
And so it should also be no surprise (especially to me) that Killers ends by duplicating a scene from my own Castle Freak to resolve the unholy alliance between the murderous alter-egos. (You’ll need to see both movies to see what I mean.)
A good thing it’s all in the family.