This piece was published during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, KILLER BOOK CLUB being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Poking fun at horror tropes within slasher films has become a tried-and-true classic maneuver since Scream. With its tongue-in-cheek poking at tried-and-true tropes, it carved a pathway for slashers to do the same. Some have taken the familiar and twisted it into something fun and new. Others, like the recently released KILLER BOOK CLUB, fail to add anything new to the genre. Instead, it falls into the oh-too-familiar tropes that it makes fun of onscreen.
Directed by Carlos Alonso Ojea and written by Carlos García Miranda, KILLER BOOK CLUB follows eight horror-loving-book fiends that are accidentally bonded together by – you guessed it – an accidental murder. It’s not long after that the college students are targeted by a mysterious killer of their own, setting the stage for not only their destruction but also a titillating fiction tale of their own. At the center of it all? The aptly described “heroine” of the film, Ángela (Veki Velilla).
Starting with an impactful scene that is sure to connect to the slasher villain at hand, slick editing makes the introduction to our group of eight memorable. The poking at genre tropes in a lecture on horror literature sets the stage and hopes for the viewer that there will be some attempt to push boundaries. Unfortunately, as soon as we get to the pivotal oops moment, it seems clear that we’re settling in for an all-too-familiar setup and outcome.
KILLER BOOK CLUB fails to take off from the page
Predictable plots can be fine. It invites comfort in our ability to guess ahead. However, with the emphasized poking at tropes and fan fiction, there’s an expectation of something more built-in. We don’t get those expectations fulfilled in the story, nor do we have them fulfilled through the characters who are woefully undeveloped in all areas.
The group of eight are rightfully assigned their archetypes by the killer, yet still fail to fill in the space of their archetypes. The most memorable one is Velilla’s Ángela and that’s likely because the character has been built out. Lacking chemistry, it’s hard to believe from the beginning that any of these people are friends. This failure to connect onscreen facilitates a further disconnect offscreen, prompting the unfortunate question, “Why should I care about any of these people?”
Successful slashers are built on the memorability of their characters. It doesn’t matter whether they are likable or not. Their personalities, regardless of whether they match an archetype or not, must show. Through a failure of direction, performance, and writing development, KILLER BOOK CLUB does little to encourage its audience to flip over to the next page.
KILLER BOOK CLUB is beautiful to watch. The usage of color, alternating between deep blood reds and cool blues, creates a visual palette that reminds us of the danger the students are in. Pablo Diez’s camera creates fun shots, capturing everything while heightening tension when needed. While there are many moments where his camerawork shines, there is a crowd sequence that stands out with how he plays around with the frame.
The snappy edits by Luis de la Madrid keep things moving, punching up pacing, and – particularly in the beginning – give our characters an extra pop. For a slasher likely aimed at a younger crowd i.e., teenagers, the kills featured onscreen are satisfactory but could have used a little bit of variety and grunginess to it. Considering who is carrying out the killing, perhaps keeping to a formula for the kills says more than we think.
Sometimes style can compensate for a lack of substance. For KILLER BOOK CLUB, the visuals and edits do some heavy lifting. It can’t hide that the film fails to elevate itself above the tropes it pokes fun at repeatedly. In fact, it struggles to be memorable beyond its imagery. Without strong characterization to give something for audiences to grasp, the film is an easy one to return to the shelf.
KILLER BOOK CLUB is now on Netflix.
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