Killer Instinct Movie Review

Written by Rebecca McCallum

Released by Blue Finch Films


Written and directed by Richard Bates Jr.
2019, 87 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Released on 18th May 2020

Amanda Crew as Olive
Robert Patrick as Harvey
Hayley Marie Norman as Lenore
Johnny Pemberton as Uriah
Nancy Linehan Charles as Agnes


Things aren’t going too well for twenty-something Olive, who has recently ended a relationship and lost her job. Also looming over her life is the grief of losing her father who committed suicide when she was a little girl. With a bit of coaxing from her mother (who lives a hippy lifestyle somewhere in the wilderness) and a few close friends, she rents a lavish holiday home for the weekend in search of her ‘eat, pray, love’ moment. However, unbeknown to Olive, the property is owned by Harvey, a fifty-something from the country who has lost his wife to suicide and is the opposite to his guest in every way imaginable. Harvey is the kind of man who believes in privatisation of land, that women should be seen and not heard and ultimately lures Olive to his property in order to act out vengeance for ‘everything she represents’.

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The film hinges on its two central performances which are solid and believable. Although Amanda Crew has the edge, thanks to her character being more fully fleshed out, it’s clear that Robert Patrick has form which makes it a shame that in Harvey, he is not developed with the attention the actor deserves. In this battle of the ages, which could most simply described as Millennials Vs Baby boomers, the pair clash right from the start with Olive being the more redemptive of the two as at least she displays some self-awareness: ‘no wonder they hate us, I hate us’ she tells a friend. Nothing is subtle here as the story is told through a series of oppositions; Olive is a city girl while Harvey is a country man, she works from an office, he works the land, and unfortunately this makes everything feel very heavy handed and purposeful.

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While Olive might be glued to her phone and dressed in clothes that seem to spell out her character, such as rainbow socks and a t-shirt that says ‘the struggle is real’, she is also shown to be smart, making sensible choices such as texting her Mum the address of the property and telling a man who makes a move on her at a local bar to ‘hold his horses’. When horror comes to the forefront it is executed well and there are good moments, one involving a spider in a contact lens is particularly hair raising. The score shifts accordingly from cool beats in the city to quietly threatening notes that linger over the top of scenes in the rental home. The film also provides some interesting comments on the objectification of women with Olive being subject to Harvey’s gaze and when she is almost a victim of a man attempting to spike her drink.

However, it’s hard not to view Harvey’s motive as a little weak. It’s ‘nothing personal’ he tells Olive and there is also the issue of his several nightmare sequences. These might be among the most imaginative (recalling the Netflix hit Velvet Buzzsaw) but they feel strangely disconnected from the world of the film. One of the stand-out scenes is when Olive has an LSD trip which leads to an exchange with her now deceased father (played by Ray Wise, a treat for Twin Peaks fans!) Here she outlines the weight of worry she is carrying, namely that of debt and loneliness which is touching and effective not only because it’s her most honest moment, but because it feels as though it reflects the stresses of the twenty-somethings of the real world.

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Killer Instinct takes a little while longer than necessary to get going, but interestingly one of its highlights is the opening scene which is visually spectacular and quite stirring. On the nose, self-referential comedy takes precedence over all else which, although arguably sharp at times, pervades the film so much that it dilutes the horror. All in all, the film would appeal mostly perhaps to younger horror fans who will enjoy its modern references and quick humour.


Movie: 2 Star Rating Cover

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