Killer Queen ‘s blood-splattered poster and lurid tagline of “She Kills And It’s On Super 8!” suggest a neo-grindhouse romp in the style of Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, or Rob Zombie. The emphasis on cheap film grain serves the same function as the holes on a pre-distressed denim jacket, a cheap short cut signal of a certain style of gritty authenticity. What Ramin Fahrenheit’s film actually delivers is certainly an homage to that bygone era, but is infinitely more authentic than a gimmicky use of the humblest of film stocks would suggest.
Having recently escaped from a mental institution, Girl (Fatima Maziani) meets Boy (director Ramin Fahrenheit) in search of some drugs to calm the violent voices in her head. Rather than calm the voices, the drugs intensify them, and Boy begins an affair with Girl despite her being an active serial killer.
As plots go, its an incredibly simple one. However, the cut and paste narrative loops of the film are shown from Girl’s perspective, becoming more non-linear and fractured as her mind fails her. She can’t trust herself, and neither can we, as the audience to her narrative.
What Killer Queen lacks in story structure, it compensates for with a studied and almost slavish devotion to grimy grindhouse aesthetics and atmosphere. Neither protagonist is ever given a name. The recorded dialog never quite syncs up to the frame, the flat affect and tinny quality (and in the case of a supporting character named Aida, obviously a different voice actress) seem piped in from another room. Secondary characters drift in and out of the film, idle small talk of glorified extras is given as much focus as plot points, peppered with random asides.
Focus is placed on inanimate objects, the action pushed to the edges of the frame. The color palette is grungy and washed out, other than the bright red blood of the Girl’s victims. What seems at first to be making a virtue out of budgetary necessities betrays its hand as the film goes on. Namely, that Fahrenheit has carefully studied the source material, with layered bits of everything from Doris Wishman’s indifferent framing to a lingering swipe of blood red lipstick worthy of an outtake from Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45. Anchoring this game of pin the references on the film stock is a fantastic Norman Orenstein score, equal parts Carpenter synths and Goblin style throbbing prog rock.
Killer Queen has an unusual problem, in that it does indeed deliver exactly what it advertises, a lovingly recreated modern exploitation film. Cult film fans of other languidly non-linear oddities like Messiah Of Evil will enjoy its careful homages, dream like atmosphere, and odd disconnection, seemingly a transmission from another time.
However, to genre audiences who are not dyed-in-the-wool fans of exploitation cinema, Killer Queen is going to seem like a sleepily nonsensical slog by comparison to the gleeful splatter of the subgenre’s greatest hits, or the polish and brisk pacing of popular neo-grindhouse revivalists. Hopefully, Ramin Fahrenheit will receive the funding to turn his keen eye toward the livelier corners of the drive-in and disreputable in his next film.
WICKED RATING: 5.5/10
Director(s): Ramin Fahrenheit
Writer(s): Ramin Fahrenheit
Stars: Ramin Fahrenheit, Fatima Maziani
Release: October 1st, 2019 (Vancouver International Film Festival)
Studio/ Production Co: Zed Republic
Runtime: 88 minutes