Nice guys… Are probably psychos…
This was a fantastic movie that I honestly hoped would lean a little more into comedy. While yes, this movie was absurdist, it cannot be called comedy. Just dark. Dark, dark, dark, absurdism. There was… nothing funny about this movie. This movie is about -in all respects- the final tipping point for a serial killer as he comes apart.
There are a lot of complicated layers to this movie, many of which I’m not sure detracts or adds to the over all story. Now, simplicity can make a good story, but complications make the best stories. There is a lot to bite into when it comes to Ryan Reynolds’ character Jerry. So, on the surface this is a dark thriller about the birth of a serial killer, but under the skin, it’s a story about the nature of good and evil.
This story is asking the question, “Is Jerry Bad?” Jerry is quite clearly insane, hearing voices and assigning them to his pets. But these two characters Mr. Whiskers the cat, and Bosco the dog (also both Ryan Reynolds), are the parts of Jerry that confront the concept of good and evil. Mr. Whiskers is the part of Jerry that wants to kill, and Bosco is the hold out in Jerry that is good. Jerry has his own personality, of course, who is largely child like. He wants to be good, and does understand right from wrong, but because of his child like nature and because he’s sorta clumsy, he’s pretty easy to manipulate.
As it’s pointed out at multiple steps during the movie, we all have similar voices. The only difference is that ours are internal and we KNOW they are us. Of course, from the set up, Jerry doesn’t understand that his animals aren’t really talking to him and that’s sort of the brilliance. Because of his child like nature and the fact he’s being manipulated, he’s 100% innocent. He really doesn’t understand he’s being manipulated and desperately doesn’t want to be bad.
And the way Jerry is, isn’t even his fault. As with most serial killers, Jerry was created. Something I don’t think I’ll even discuss, even in the spoilers. The point being, trauma made Jerry what he is, and despite that fact, Jerry remained a good and functional person for years, the character being portrayed as perhaps in his mid 20s to late 30s. In fact, Jerry would have remained so, were it not for what kicks off the plot.
Don’t get me wrong, Jerry is not the victim in this movie, and choice, at the end of the day, is exactly what makes him the villain. But this is an important story about why good and evil isn’t so simple, and does help us sympathize with Jerry, at least a little.
Speaking as an individual with sever mental illness, that doesn’t in fact make me quite violent, maybe, just maybe, I was one fatal accident away from being tipped over the edge. Maybe I still am, maybe we all are. That’s the message, incredibly dark and complicated as it is.
This movie is good enough that I can recommend it even though I have no idea who to recommend it to. Maybe fans of American Mary? Maybe fans of Excision? Both of those movies might be a little absurdist, but nothing like this. I quite frankly have never seen anything like this and that makes it a little gem of unique and special Avant Garde cinema. If a Bizarro ‘making a murderer’ sounds interesting to you, then give this a try.
So, what’s really important to set Jerry apart from ‘just some deranged psychopath,’ is the fact that the first kill was really an accident. I watched the scene a couple of times to make sure. Jerry might have brought the knife with him, but intent is everything and he clearly did not intend to stab Fiona (played by Gemma Arterton). Indeed, even while he was violent and erratic during the scene where he kills Lisa (Anna Kedrick), it was never his intent to kill her.
Perhaps both of these things happened as an extension of the part of Jerry that is Mr. Whiskers -bringing along the knife to accidentally stab Fiona and locking himself out of his house so that Lisa could get in- but Jerry never intended or even tried to have any of this happen.
Mr. Whiskers might be intent on killing these individuals, and Mr. Whiskers might be a part of Jerry, but he is a very separate and very different character. Because Mr. Whiskers is a separate personality from Jerry and because Mr. Whiskers holds the intent, the guilt is firmly with Mr. Whiskers.
This is expressed when Jerry finally dies and both Mr. Whiskers and Bosco must leave him, because they are not him. Now, I’m not sure the execution is proper, separating all three characters even though they are the same person and even though they are played by the same actor. Indeed, I’m not sure if the separation of intent is really accurately portrayed. This is all a thought experiment in the nature of evil and innocence.
Whether or not you agree the execution is successful, it definitely merits a go.
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- Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Cloverfield’ (2008) - September 10, 2020
- Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of ‘Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women’ 2020, Edited by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn - September 3, 2020
- Reed Alexander’s Literary Review of ‘Trief Magic’ (2020) by John Baltisberger - August 16, 2020