We all have our struggles.
For some it’s the lure of substances; others find themselves overwhelmed with grief. Illness too creates its fair share of suffering. But no matter the issue, many believe it’s better to struggle as a group than alone.
In KILLERS ANONYMOUS, that group is made up of murderers and assassins that have come together for a therapy session on the evening of the shooting of a US senator.
Who is responsible for the shooting is a mystery to the group, as is the identity of Killers Anonymous’ newest member, Alice (Rhyon Nicole Brown). Throughout the film, the group members alternate between interrogating Alice and sharing their histories of violence, but little do they know a third element is at play. These cruel killers are being watched by both a mysterious young woman (Isabelle Allen) and a well-connected criminal mastermind (Gary Oldman).
Can the group get the secretive Alice to reveal her identity? Will they discover they’re being watched? And just who shot the senator?
Director Martin Owen took on a massive challenge when he decided to build his colorful underground world of murder and mystery. With more than a dozen characters, multiple subplots, and more intrigue than you can shake a switch blade at, KILLERS ANONYMOUS is an ambitious film from moment one. And that ambition shows.
With slick sets bathed in beautiful orange and blue lights and actors well versed in giving stylized performances, the film fits in nicely with the amoral crime mysteries that were so popular in the early 2000s.
A special nod should be given to actress MyAnna Buring as Joanna, the kindly reverend who runs the Killers Anonymous meetings out of the cozy back room of her church. Buring brings a lovely balance of strength and gentleness to her character, who, like the killer’s she’s helping, is more than meets the eye.
There is much to enjoy in KILLERS ANONYMOUS, but it should be pointed out that the story is hard to follow. While the ambition to create a layered mystery is admirable, the film quickly begins to falter under its own weight. With so many intertwining subplots and characters, it’s easy to find yourself in a scene and have no idea how you got there.
I think this confusion is largely about stakes. In an attempt to keep the story mysterious, Owen and his co-writers, Seth Johnson and Elizabeth Morris, failed to lay out clear, concise, and relatable stakes for the audience to hold on to. Without a solid understanding of what the characters stand to lose, I was unsure who to care for and unclear how each individual person wove into the greater story.
Writer and actor Gunnar Hansen offers young writers some great advice in his book Chain Saw Confidential: How We Made the World’s Most Notorious Horror Film. Once a film is greenlit, time becomes money, and there is very little a filmmaker can do but hold on for dear life. Because of this, Hansen urges writers not to rush through the writing process. As he so wisely reminds us, writing is the only part of the process not restricted by budget, so don’t be afraid to do a second, a third, or even a fourth draft before the money starts flowing.
The story is the foundation, and in KILLERS ANONYMOUS’ case just a little more shaping of that foundation could have really helped keep me at the edge of my seat.
KILLERS ANONYMOUS is an ambitious love letter to the mystery/thrillers of the early 21st Century. Check it out on Amazon Prime, Blu-ray and DVD.