Cinema Epoch // 2007 // 71 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // March 7th, 2008
This young girl will be...humiliated, raped, murdered. And you will watch.
My intrepid viewing companion Mr. B and I have suffered through a number of horrifically bad films, many of which have made grown men weep. From Inbred Redneck Alien Abduction to Intercessor: Another Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare, we've seen some true stinkers, but we agreed after the 70 minutes of Amateur Porn Star Killer were over that this is, by far, the worst film we've had to sit through.
Amateur Porn Star Killer follows the "inspired by true events" exploits of Brandon (director Shane Ryan). Brandon is a guy who wants to make a snuff film, so he picks up a young woman (Michiko Jimenez) and brings her to a hotel. We watch as he slowly coaxes her to reveal herself for the camera before meeting her fate at Brandon's hands.
Usually, I save discussion of the look and sound of a film until the end of my review because I think that plot and character are usually more significant. I'm generally able to forgive lackluster audiovisual presentation if the film is otherwise compelling. Amateur Porn Star Killer lacks both a competent audiovisual scheme and a compelling narrative, making it a chore to sit through its 71 minutes.
The whole production appear as if it was shot on video, and then run through a filter during post-production to give it the look of grainy, damaged 8mm film. The lighting seems completely from sources in the shooting locations, so the screen is often very dark, making it difficult to discern details in the frame. Sometimes, it was even difficult to tell exactly what I was looking at, never mind making out the details. The overall look of the film made it a frustrating viewing experience, since it was hard to engage with a story I often couldn't see. The audio was no better. Dialogue was mixed poorly with the score, so no amount of turning up the volume could make the actors easier to hear. Sometimes, the director kindly put subtitles on the screen, but they weren't an option from the DVD itself but actually burned onto the frame. There was no apparent logic to their presence, as they appeared during some significant bits of dialogue but not others, and at times when it was easy to hear the actors as well as times when their voices were indistinct. I assume it was an intentional technique, but I have no idea what it was supposed to convey.
Despite the poor presentation, I don't feel like I missed out on a great story with Amateur Porn Star Killer: watch in real time as a guy picks up a young woman, takes her to a hotel, coerces her into having sex, and then kills her. As a 15 minute short, this might have been interesting. The idea of presenting an actual "snuff film" as a pedestrian transaction between two people rather than a sensational event (as it is in films like 8MM) has merit. However, this very pedestrian presentation, showing all the awkward details of the introduction and coercion, works against the film through its running time. To put it bluntly, it's boring to watch these two strangers awkwardly chat about inane subjects, even knowing that he's waiting for the opportunity to kill her. The actors do an effective job maintaining the pedestrian feeling, but as with the story, this doesn't work in their favor. It's hard to tell if they're actually good actors being inane, or if they're just boring people put in front of the camera. Honestly, by the end of the film, I didn't really care.
If the preceding hasn't scared you off from the film completely, some other details might. There's a flash of nudity here and there, and we get treated to some sex scenes between the protagonist Brandon and an anonymous woman. There is some full frontal nudity of the male and female variety, although it's brief. If nudity doesn't incense you, the fact that the victim, Stacy, is supposed to be 13 might. Again, if the film had been shorter, or had something more significant to say about our culture's obsession with snuff films, it might have been interesting to see the process of seduction (if you can call it that) and killing. Instead, because of the constant barrage of video effects that try to mimic a beat up film, it's never possible to believe it is a snuff film, only as a cheap knockoff of one, which only makes it more boring to watch.
Considering how horrid the audio and video appears, the DVD is surprisingly strong. All the problems with with audiovisual presentation seem restricted to the source rather than the DVD, with no obvious transfer errors marring the frame. In addition to the feature, Cinema Epoch delivers a decent set of extras for a film of this budget. The first extra is a drive thru tour of the locations of the film with the director and star. They talk about how the locations, which look pretty shady in the film, are actually fairly upscale. They share some stories that are far more interesting than the actual film, including one about how star Michiko Jimenez was offered several rides from creepy guys before director Shane Ryan came by to film the scene where he offers her a ride. The other big extra is a conversation between Michiko and Shane. They're obviously proud of their film, and they discuss their relationship and the history of the film. They find the film really realistic, and discuss how it creeped both of them out to make it. Learning about the budget and time constraints made me more sympathetic toward the film, but I still don't think it succeeds in all the ways the filmmakers think it does.
The DVD also includes five short films by director Shane Ryan. These largely dialogue-less films show that he has a well developed visual sense, and an eye for visual storytelling. If only he would use them on a more interesting project than Amateur Porn Star Killer. Unsurprisingly, these shorts feature nudity, violence, and strong language. There are also three trailers for Amateur Porn Star Killer included, and in some ways they work better than the feature itself.
I really wanted to find something positive to say about the film, but I'm at a loss. The fact that it was made so cheaply (in one night for less than 100 dollars) almost makes up for it, but the movie is still too difficult to watch to justify much praise. The best I can say is that during the 71 minutes of the film, I wasn't out on the streets committing random crimes. Maybe this film can keep someone else from the streets as well.
It's sad, but a film about the rape and murder of a young woman didn't offend or incense me. Sure, the events portrayed in the film are horrific, and should cause me to feel something, but the presentation was so poor that I couldn't get beyond boredom into empathy. I'm sure there's an audience for a film like this, but I'm guessing that most won't want to sit through a film they'll have trouble seeing and hearing.
Amateur Porn Star Killer is guilty of wasting a good idea with poor production.
Review content copyright © 2008 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Epoch
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 71 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Drive Thru Crime Scene Tour
* Interviews with star Michiko Jimenez and filmmaker Shane Ryan
* 4 Trailers
* 5 Short Films by Shane Ryan