I KNOW WHO KILLED ME
Reviewed by SEAN DECKER
I KNOW WHO KILLED ME, director Chris Sivertson’s sophomore genre effort (following 2005’s yet-to-be-released festival darling THE LOST), is a sumptuous feast for the senses. The director, in conjunction with cinematographer John R. Leonetti and production designer Jerry Fleming, imbues the flick with what has become his patently unpredictable punk-rock signature, while at the same time drawing style-wise from such filmmaking greats as Alfred Hitchcock, Brian De Palma and Dario Argento. Composer Joel McNeely’s score evokes Jerry Goldsmith’s compositions for 1992’s BASIC INSTINCT to an extent, and as in that film lifts the rather sordid narrative up, providing it a touch of class. The other production values are equally solid, and the end result is a deliberately paced flick which happily eschews “torture porn” for an almost whimsical tone (albeit the Grimm’s Fairy Tales variety), yet which is punctuated with bursts of cringe-inducing violence and intense sexuality.
And yes, star Lindsay Lohan does indeed pole-dance in the film. She pole-dances a lot, and that alone is worth the price of admission.
Written by debuting screenwriter Jeff Hammond and produced by FRIDAY THE 13TH series alumnus Frank Mancuso Jr., I KNOW WHO KILLED ME co-stars Neal (THE HITCHER) McDonough and Julia Ormond as Daniel and Susan Fleming, two parents who must come to terms with the aftermath of the abduction and torture of their daughter Aubrey (Lohan). Having turned up sans a right hand and leg after 17 days of captivity, Aubrey seems to have additionally suffered a psychotic break, and is adamant that her name isn’t Aubrey at all, but Dakota, an ex-gentleman’s club hostess with little memory of her abduction. This does much to confuse not only her grieving parents, but also a local FBI agent and psychologist (Garcelle Beauvais and Michael Adler, respectively) and Aubrey’s boyfriend (Brian Geraghty). Is Dakota who she says she is? Is she Aubrey’s doppelganger? If either or neither, then where is Aubrey? And what of Dakota’s stigmata (spontaneous and unexplained wounds), which seem to have increased in frequency?
Sivertson languidly unspools I KNOW WHO KILLED ME’s narrative, teasing and enticing the audience as he reveals the characters’ backstories, and while the third-act narrative sags to an extent given the sheer amount of suspense it shoulders (as generated in the previous two), the finale remains quite satisfying. The director and his visual team bathe the film in deep blues and reds, a welcome departure from the dirty green, sodium-lit palette of similarly themed horror fare, and the end result is simply a beautiful, eye-popping visual treat, so stylized that one can’t help recalling Argento’s approach to SUSPIRIA. Other cinematic homages appear as well, from a DePalma-esque split screen to a nod to PSYCHO’s shower scene.
Sivertson utilizes his locations to great effect, lending a sense of foreboding even to locales as postcard-perfect as the California coastal communities of San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay, although it’s his handling of Lohan’s pole-dancing routine halfway through the film that truly smokes. Forget GRINDHOUSE’s Rose McGowan (2007’s other cinematic legless stripper); Lohan absolutely owns this setpiece, with great assist from Sivertson’s framing. You’d think perhaps the director has logged considerable time in a strip club himself.
Performances are solid throughout, and although there are one or two flat line deliveries from Lohan (perhaps due to her personal issues during production) they are more than made up for by her entirely committed and hard-as-nails portrayal of Dakota (some of which is rather uncomfortable to watch, in light of her recent brushes with the law). Lohan and Ormond sell the strained possible mother/daughter dynamic as well, and the young actress and Geraghty make great use of the comedic aspect inherent in their relationship.
As for the FX work on hand, I KNOW WHO KILLED ME received an R for not only “sexuality, nudity and language” (including amputee sex with Lohan) but for “grisly violence including torture and disturbing gory images,” which the feature delivers in spades without traveling down the road of such recent films as CAPTIVITY. The special makeup FX provided by David Dupuis are most impressive, particularly given that the film was lensed using the Panavision Genesis system, a format so sharp that many a visual trick would be unmasked. Not so here; shots linger and gore fills the frame to the point of causing audience squirms, whether due to the filmed deleterious effects of dry ice on naked flesh (you may want to look away) or the DIY approach to limb reattachment. The violence serves the script, however, and as edited by Lawrence Jordon, the action is a crisp, rhythmic waltz; no shaky-cam, MTV “what the hell is going on?” cuts here.