[review by JA Kerswell]
|A rather unlikely clique meet regularly in the KILLER BOOK CLUB.|
In this highly stylised Spanish entry in the slasher sweepstakes, a group of university students find themselves stalked by a killer clown after a prank goes wrong with deadly consequences. KILLER BOOK CLUB is akin to the Greatest Hits of the 1980s and - especially - 1990s slasher classics. Arguably, the repetition of themes and scenes keeps us coming back for more. This is where ‘cookie cutter’ isn’t an insult - but rather an invitation to indulge in a familiar treat.
This group of - admittedly unlikely - trendy university students have formed a book club to discuss their love of horror led by the charismatic Sebas (Álvaro Mel). Angela (Veki Velilla) has invited her boyfriend Nando (Iván Pellicer), the only person not to attend their university to attend. Others include the live blogger Koldo (Hamza Zaidi) and slightly stern librarian Eva (María Cerezuela). They are currently discussing the book ‘Killer Clowns’ by Miranda Duncan (a clear nod to Lois Duncan the author of what was turned into one of the 90s most successful slashers I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (1997)). The film is actually based on the novel of the same name by author Carlos García Miranda (who wrote the script for this).
Angela is suffering from writer’s block after a book based on a murder and subsequent apparent suicide of an online friend went on to become a surprise bestseller when she was a teenager. She escapes from the clutches of her sleazy English Lit tutor Cruzado (Daniel Grao) after someone sends him a false email suggesting she wants to hook up. After hearing about her trauma, her friends suggest they play a prank on him. They dress as clowns and pursue him through the deserted university; only for this to end in his unintentional death.
|Peek-a-boo, I see you! Slasher clowns in the KILLER BOOK CLUB.|
The group cover-up their crime and let the police think it was a tragic accident. They also swear never to talk about it again (deja vu anyone?). However, someone calling themselves ‘The MadClown’ (sic) starts publishing a novel online that details the deadly events. Subsequently, the friends are stalked and killed one-by-one by someone wearing the same clown mask they wore that night. Soon after each death, a new chapter about the grisly demise appears online. Can the remaining survivors uncover the identity of the murderer before they are all permanently checked out?
In a presumed nod to irony, the professor tells his students: “Stop stealing stories and start living your own.” KILLER BOOK CLUB is slavish in its intentional homage to classic slasher movies - with special attention to the likes of SCREAM (1996), I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER and URBAN LEGEND (1998). That’s not to say it’s not a fun 90 minutes - because it is - but it fails to find any distinct voice of its own. Again, though, is that really a problem for a popcorn slasher movie? I guess that really depends on the viewer.
The trouble with a lot of cover versions is that they can be pale imitations of the originals. Mileage varies with KILLER BOOK CLUB. The talk of sequels and nods to real-life killers such as John Wayne Gacy imitate the post-modernism of Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven’s SCREAM, but lacks the sharp writing and has the sense of been-there-done-that. The nods to other horror and slasher movies are relentless: from the abandoned dorm to the fiery inferno in a boiler room that brings to mind a certain Mr Krueger. Still, again - whilst the film would certainly fail under plagiarism charges were it to come under the microscope of a university lecturer - it is a breezy and enjoyable slasher movie partly because of its magpie and familiar nature. The makers know enough to throw in a good few chase scenes. The bread and butter of any good popcorn slasher.
|Nando (Iván Pellicer) and Angela (Veki Velilla) try to stay alive in Carlos Alonso Ojea's tribute to classic slasher movies.|
Where the film does distinguish itself is with some visual flair. It looks great. Beautifully shot and with an evident budget behind it thanks to Netflix. Certain elements, such as the TV screens showing digital eyes watching over corpses in a mortuary, don’t make a lick of sense but look great. The cast is pretty good, too, in their admittedly mostly one-dimensional roles. Although Veki Velilla, as the clear Final Girl, is one of those mopey types even before murders begin. I don’t think she cracks a smile once in the movie. It brings to mind another Spanish slasher movie from the early 2000s. TUNO NEGRO (2001) shared a humour-free lead and wild plot twists. The scene where the killer sends the group a live feed of his prey suggests the makers of KILLER BOOK CLUB are not just well versed in North American slashers of the period, but the homegrown variant, too.
It is best to disengage your brain when watching KILLER BOOK CLUB to avoid falling down plotholes. The most egregious of these is how the killer can write a chapter with a blow-by-blow account of a murder and send it out to the group almost immediately afterwards. Best to bask in these glorious idiosyncrasies if you’re a fan of ridiculous and far-fetched slashers - and, of course, I am. Also, the film nods to the 1980s with its splashy gore effects and a wittily placed cover version of one of that decade’s staples ‘It’s a Sin’ by The Pet Shop Boys.
Yes, ultimately KILLER BOOK CLUB is a mix-tape of many of your favourite slasher themes and scenarios, but it has an infectious sense of fun and hasn’t got a mean-spirited bone in its body. If you can say such a thing about people being killed by a clown with a bespoke claw hammer and knife combo.
female: 3 / male: 6
1) Female burnt to death
2) Male decapitated
3) Male falls and is impaled on a statue
4) Female has spike pushed through her throat
5) Male disembowelled with claw hammer
6) Female whacked in the back and impaled on spiked hammer
7) Male found with throat slit
8) Male impaled on a statue
9) Male killed with an axe
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