The Killer Inside Me–an Intense Ride into the Abyss of the Criminally Insane

Nov 05, 2010 by Tom Jones

Out here you’re a man or a gentleman or you’re nothing at all and god help you if you’re not. Nobody has it coming. That’s why they can’t see it coming.

Extremely critical situational thinking from someone who’s very clever.

The Killer Inside Me” is a 1952 novel by American writer Jim Thompson, published by Fawcett Publications. In the introduction to the anthology Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s, it’s described as "one of the most blistering and uncompromising crime novels ever written."

Released in January of this year, straight out of Redford’s, Sundance Film Festival, starring Casey Affleck, as the main protagonist, Lou Ford, who’s character is a mild mannered 29 year old small town local deputy Sheriff in Texas.

Slowly albeit surely, we watch and learn–almost as surprisingly as Ford does–how he suddenly and shockingly is unmasked as a cunning and sociopathic criminal.

And someone who’s been conveniently hidden and out-of-sight for a long time–underneath his quiet demeanor and small town glibness.

Indeed, as Affleck, (Lou Ford) aptly says:

Trouble growing up in a small town is that everybody thinks that they know you like you are.

Quite the understatement. The plot seems simple enough in the beginning.

The Killer Inside Me,” tells the story of a handsome, charming, unassuming small town sheriff’s deputy Lou Ford. Lou has a bunch of problems:

Woman problems. Law enforcement problems. An ever-growing pile of murder victims in his West Texas jurisdiction. And the fact he’s a sadist, a psychopath and a killer.

No small feat in a small town amongst people that have known him, and those he’s known his entire life.

As suspicion begins to fall on Casey Affleck’s, Lou, it’s only a matter of time before he runs out of alibis.

But in Thompson’s savage, bleak, blacker than holier than black noir universe, nothing is ever what it seems, and it turns out that the investigators pursuing him, might have secrets of their own.

Every part of this film is bountiful in character and scene; and is always outstanding because you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next. Lastly, the quiet character as played by Affleck, “ain’t so quiet.”

The standout performances by Affleck (Ford), Rothman the local Union Boss (Elias Kotias), the Prostitute as played by Jessica Alba’s character Joyce Lakeland, Ned Beatty as Chester Conway, Kate Hudson (Amy Stanton), and the entire ensemble was superbly acted and on-point.

It’s not a simple film but it is a great film for many reasons:

First and foremost it’s a story where we get to not only experience the drama unfolding in Affeck’s (Ford) descent into madness, the viewer is also pulled into the film and its other characters, which creates a unique dynamic typically reserved for books; that is, we come to know and understand all of the other characters and protagonists–which in turn allows us to relate to them on many levels.

No wonder the movie was based on a famous Novel.

But alas, in more ways than one, the depths of this movie’s pitch dark thematic story, its ethos and pathos and theme and tempo all serve in the end to make The Killer Inside Me, a clarion call that life sometimes ain’t what it might seem to be.

The bottom line is that watching Affleck’s character Ford’s march toward madness is a tour de force that transfixes the viewer into suspended animation.

Directed by Brit Michael Winterbottom (A Mighty Heart), The Killer inside Me, is also a remake of a 1976 crime caper starring Stacy Keach.

Affleck’s (Ford’s) dark side is that he gets his kicks by having rough sex with his fiance, Amy (Kate Hudson), and Joyce (Jessica Alba), a prostitute who can really take a punch–literally.

His big secret is that he previously sexually assaulted a 5 year old girl in his teens, yet managed to evade justice by the fact his adopted half-brother took the rap for him.

Somewhere after the opening credits, we find Lou combining his addiction to kinky sex with a compulsion to repeatedly kill with no motive.

But between his boyish charm and his stature in the local community, no suspicions are aroused by the Teflon lawman. Instead, the body count only escalates in accordance with both his blood lust and his need to cover his tracks.

To try and sum up the movie without giving away the main parts of the plot and the ending, Lou wants to settle some old scores with the “big man” of this small Texas community– Ned Beatty as Chester Conway, who arranged to have Affleck’s character half-brother murdered.

Affleck in turn, devises a scheme to kill Conway’s son– Elmer Conway–played by Jay Ferguson, by staging a fake murder-suicide.

As it turns out, Chester Conway finds out that his son is in love with the same Prostitute that Affleck is having an affair with, but Conway wishes to bribe Alba into leaving, with the intentional half hearted assistance of Ford–who both beats Alba to a pulp while shooting Conway’s son dead, as his way to extract revenge.

After he’s done the unthinkable, slowly but surely he finds that both the local Union Boss, Ben Rothman, as played by Elias Koteas, and the local District Attorney, played by Simon Bakers’ character Howard Hendricks, are both knowing and suspicious accordingly.

Kudos to both playing authentic and emotionally intelligent performance ensembles. But it’s Rothman’s character, ultimately, that always seems to show up and kinda slowly and churly keep the viewer into a a morbid curiosity of watching the always straight faced Affleck’s interactions with him.

And although Rothman knows that Affleck’s character is a killer, he constantly reminds him, which during the movie sounds funny and at times silly, “Save the bullshit for the birds.

Later we come to know exactly what Rothman really means by this statement.

The movie’s ability to successfully intertwine the exteriors of both a story and the main protagonist’s inner and outer worlds, is miles away from anything else accomplished in cinema in a long time.

Problems amount–there was a payoff, but some of the money was missing; the Sheriff knows Casey did the deed, yet his loyalty remains intact as does his drinking; the local Union Representative, Sam Rothman knows the tune, but in his defense he doesn’t want either himself or the Union getting dragged into Chester Conway’s wrath–both as the small town’s main construction builder and as the alleged fall-guy and perpetrator of the numerous murders piling up– and lastly as the escalation of the homicides escalates to include all of of Lou’s “friends,’ character Nick Pappas’s son Johnny Pappas, (Liam Aiken), ends up taking the rap, because of his naive belief in the deeply cunning illusion provided to him by the character Ford.

Pappas believes that Affleck’s character is his friend, when Ford lets the young man feels as if he has no choice but to commit suicide, due to Ford’s (Affleck’s) frame-up of Pappas with Conway’s bribe money–he gave him a marked $20.

Affleck’s “friends’ in the end, end up dead which inevitably leads to the literal and explosive denouement of this quite shocking movie.

Essentially Lou as played by Affleck, starts to relive his youth as his mom encouraged his sadomasochistic tendencies.

But as he aptly observes upon his soon daily encounters with Allbas’s, Joyce Lakeland, “the wood had been turned on a dying fire.

His sadomasochistic and murderous tendencies had by then taken hold of him throughout.

Perhaps that’s why one of the most brilliant and influential movie director’s of all time, Stanley Kubrick, when once working with the author of “The Killer Inside Me,” on a much earlier movie, was quoted as saying that he praised the novel, stating that it was "probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered."

The small town Sheriff Bob Maples, played by Tom Bower, repeatedly reminds Affleck’s character Lou, “It’s always lightest before the dark.

And of course, Affleck doesn’t believe a word of it–until it’s way past too late.

And when he does, the ending is both masterful and deeply unpredictable yet not unexpected.

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