The independently produced slasher He Comes To Kill marks writer-director August Anthony Aguilar’s first feature-length film. The story opens in the Rivera Mental Asylum gone amok, as a guard has released all the prisoners there, as he’s in awe of the mayhem they’ve caused. Specifically, the guard wants to impress dangerous psychopath Stanley Elk (Virgil McKee), whose brutal exploits have created a cult following. Now free, Stanley begins the long walk toward Sandpointe with only murder on his mind.
Chief Sanders (Joe Casterline), who is always coked out of his mind, is actually thrilled that Stanley escaped. He figures that he could bolster his career if he can take down the killer and prove Stanley is just a mere mortal. Meanwhile, devotee Mark (Jordan Fraley) plans on surprising his idol, Stanley, with a gift: Gina (Brittney Saylor). Gina is terrified but is planning a potential escape. Can Gina escape? Will the police chief be able to stop the serial killer? Is anyone safe from Stanley’s rampaging axe?
He Comes To Kill is structured most engagingly. See, there’s no standard main character, at least not in the traditional sense. The beginning segues from the institution only after a cold Stanley slices and dices the guard who was ostensibly setting him free. Then cut to a bar where a few ladies are drinking and then head home separately. Bam! One of them is attacked by Mark in the parking lot. Then Chief Sanders and his drug habit are introduced. This plotting allows Stanley Elk to loom large over the whole 50-minute runtime without needing him to be in every scene. Aguilar has figured out how to make the legend seem real without spending a ton of money on extras, fake limbs, or a ton of sets.
“…Stanley begins the long walk toward Sandpointe with only murder on his mind.”
This isn’t to imply this horror flick is a bloodless affair. There is a decent body count, especially once Stanley gets to White Lavender Jones’ party. The editing makes the chaos and killings easy to follow, while the cinematography builds decent atmosphere and tension. Gorehounds who don’t mind some iffy lighting and the occasionally hammy acting will be delighted.
As much good as Aguilar orchestrates, He Comes To Kill is noticeably low-budget. Saylor, Fraley, and McKee (who just needs to be imposing as he has no lines) acquit themselves well. But the rest of the cast is only so-so. It’s clear they’re having fun, but they never truly inhabit the character. Casterline is so over-the-top and goofy that he does not entirely fit the tone of the rest of the picture. That said, he is pretty fun when taken in a bubble.
Plus, the film never overcomes its limited resources. The lighting is often harsh, despite some interesting setups involving various coloring techniques. Maybe it is the lack of grain to really throwback to the 1970s titles that so clearly inspired this tale that makes the lighting only not quite right.
He Comes To Kill is swiftly paced, and its unique story structure keeps things engaging. The main actors are pretty good, while the editing creates a truly menacing sense of dread. Still, the budget, or lack thereof, is noticeable at times, which might throw some potential viewers off. Too bad, as they’d be missing out on one genuinely brilliant ending.
"…its unique story structure keeps things engaging."