Thriller, World Cinema
Lionsgate Films UK
1st March 2014 (UK Premiere, Glasgow Film Festival)
Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto
Luna Maya, Rin Takanashi, Oka Antara, Kazuki Kitamura
The final, and arguably best, feature and Glasgow’s Frightfest 2014 was Killers, the latest project from the so-called Mo Brothers, Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel. The Indonesian writer-directors have already introduced their dark vision to western audiences via their entries into recent anthologies. Tjahjanto directed the most gruelling entry to The ABC’s of Death in 2012 - L is for Libido, then last year Tjahjanto and Stamboel paired up to steal the show in V/H/S 2 with ‘Safe Haven’. Killers, is the duo’s second feature film.
Nomura (Kazuki Kitamura) is a successful Tokyo executive who murders young women, films the gruelling episodes, and uploads them anonymously to an internet blog. Bayu (Oka Antara), a struggling Jakarta-based journalist recently split from his wife and daughter, begins a correspondence with Nomura after his part in a double homicide. As Bayu spirals into a mess of vigilante murder, Nomura also begins to lose control over his carefully orchestrated existence and the two seem set on the path to destruction.
There’s nothing pretentious about Killers, nothing convoluted or ridiculous. It’s a film that operates on the basis of its simple ideas and execution, The Mo Brothers decide to articulate their story of psychological breakdown in a stylish but non-intrusive way. Across a festival which has seen a peculiar variety of styles and tones, Killers arrives as a fully configured and most accomplished feature exactly because it gives itself entirely over to great characters and story.
Much of the film rests on the laurels of the talent hooked in for acting duties. Not least Kitamura who shines throughout as the twisted and self-obsessed serial killer. Kitamura has an incredible face for acting, at once old and young, terrifying but utterly charming, his consummate skill as an actor; his ability to get lost in the mind of a deranged killer, seems at points startlingly intense. Similarly Aditya’s journey is just as muddied and entertaining, Antara delves into the head-space of a burgeoning vigilante killer with such heart that his is the most involving story of the film.
Killers is not without its faults though. Some unclear filmmaking leaves the location of the film at times undisclosed and though this helps to blend the stories of the two killers, it at times becomes a bit confusing. At a run time of 2 hours and 20 minutes, there’s not really any excuse for messy narrative, yet in its entirety the film has the ability to throw some boring and obvious plot strands at the audience which seem wholly out of place in what is, for the most part, an incredibly well-crafted thriller. Also, The Mo Brothers muff a few moments of crucial tension through messy editing and, in one case, awful CGI effects. In a film so carefully executed, and with such finely balanced visceral use of gore and violence, the bad moments really stand out as unacceptably lazy. Thankfully there’s very few scenes of this kind.
Only the pair’s second feature film together, Killers is a riveting powerhouse of a film, exploring the darkest recesses of the human mind with two fantastic lead performances. This really is beautiful understated horror cinema at its most watchable.