Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours 17 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
(Indonesian/Japanese with English subtitles)
Directed by: The Mo Brothers
Written by: Timo Tjahjanto & Takuji Ushiyama
Starring: Kazuki Kitamura, Oka Antara, Rin Takanashi, Luna Maya & Ray Sahetapy
Serial killer films are a dime-a-dozen. We’ve seen plenty of maniacs portrayed in many different way. This is why it’s something truly special when you can refer to a serial killer thriller as something wholly unique. Such is the case with KILLERS, the second film by the Mo Brothers and the fourth directorial/writing effort by Timo Tjahjanto. This Indonesian film is as bleak as they come, but also entertaining too. It’s also a no-holds-barred horror film that weaves two very different characters into separate plots that come together in a wonderful way.
Nomura is a charismatic lover and constantly woos the ladies. He also happens to be a vicious serial killer uploading videos of his kills to the internet. Bayu is a disgraced journalist going through a particularly nasty divorce. In an act of self-defense, he kills two men trying to assault him. Conveniently, a cell phone recorded the whole bloody affair and Bayu can’t help but upload it to the very site that Nomura constantly shows off his latest kills. Impressed with the Bayu’s work, Nomura reaches out to chat. From there on out, a symbiotic online relationship between the two killers morphs their lives into something far more complicated than anyone could have anticipated. Nomura finds himself falling for a potential victim, while Bayu aims to become a sort-of vigilante (uploading his murders on the website). Things progressively get darker…
If you are weak of stomach, then KILLERS is not the movie for you. This is an out-and-out gorefest, but it isn’t purely a splatter flick. There are complex plots at play. These would make for interesting movies by themselves. The decision of blending the two together makes for a film that may run over 2-hours, but whizzes by at a pace that feels far shorter. There’s never a dull moment. Even the quiet dramatic scenes are powerful and keep the viewer uneasy. That’s one of the best qualities of the film. You never fully get comfortable watching it. There’s either an adrenaline rush or a sense of unease.
The characters of Nomura and Bayu are brought to life in incredible performances. It certainly helps that nearly all of the production values are top-notch, making the entire film beautiful to look at. Some expertly crafted moments will stick out in my mind for a long while (including a brilliant murder scene in a nightclub and an exciting chase through a hotel). As far as the violent content goes, you pretty much see everything you could possibly expect in a film like this. Nomura likes to keep his videos creative and his kills diverse. As an audience we never feel repetition in these murder scenes. It isn’t all about the kills though, this is a story about two very different men who go through gore-soaked self-discoveries.
While the argument can be made that it’s a dark drama (some people are claiming it isn’t even horror), I see it as a visceral horror movie through and through. Of course, there are a couple of clichés that hold it back though. I spotted one effect that wasn’t executed particularly well early on (involving a prosthetic going off a little too soon), but that’s the only real flaw that I saw effects-wise. Some of the characters (would-be victims) make a few stupid decisions along their way too (such as not grabbing a weapon in an opportune time or not calling the police when we clearly saw they had service on their phone a moment ago). These problems bugged me to the extent of rolling my eyes, but it doesn’t detract too much from the entertainment value or the shocks to be had throughout.
I wouldn’t be surprised if KILLERS goes on to receive the same kind of following that OLDBOY has. It’s a twisted, bloody ride that tells a very unusual story that we haven’t seen before. For a movie involving serial killers, that’s an impressive feat. The Mo Brothers first film, MACABRE, was the ultimate homage to TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and was thoroughly enjoyable, if not familiar. With their second feature, they’ve upped the stakes and created something that should be celebrated in the horror genre. Also after his segments in V/H/S/2 and ABC’S OF DEATH, Timo Tjahjanto is proving himself to be one sick puppy. I can’t wait to see what comes next from the Mo Brothers (or Tjahjanto on his own). KILLERS comes highly recommended, if you think you can handle it.