Benny (Pauline Cousty) is an independent filmmaker, trying to make what she describes as a horror film about horror films. Like many indie artists out there, Benny finds funds hard to come by, her ideas questioned and the entire process to be as stressful an experience as they come. Of course, this stress is heightened by Benny’s current homeless status, floating from friends’ floors or couches, and her increasing drug-friendliness; cocaine seems to be more important than having a home. Benny’s downward spiral seems almost destined, considering her mother’s (Canelle Hoppé) own problems with drugs, particularly a continuing heroin addiction, and Benny handles everything through her creative impulses, either in her filmmaking or in her uses of different wigs and makeup to change her look (and hide the fact that she hasn’t been able to wash her hair in a long time).
Ben Woodiwiss’ Benny Loves Killing is a portrait of an artist on the brink of complete self-destruction, even as she achieves her filmmaking goals and seemingly does everything she has set out to do. The narrative is a slow burn, but the imagery is beautiful and the edit dynamic, so it gives a sense of forward motion even in the quietest of moments.
And I appreciated the deliberate pace of the story, as I like it when the character reveals occur at the right moment and time, as opposed to all at once in an explosion of exposition. While on the surface the film could be just another tale of a starving artist walking the path to self-destruction, the truth is that it is not only not that cut-and-dry, it may not even be an accurate assessment. There’s much more going on here than outward appearances.
Which is a credit not just to the story, but to the performance of Pauline Cousty as Benny. She doesn’t really do anything overly dramatic; her performance is as subtle as it is emotionally provocative and powerful. It’s a thin line between a subtle performance that captivates and a lack of performance that bores, and Cousty is always on the right side of that divide. Even as she makes one questionable decision after another, you know there’s someone truly intelligent and insightful there and, for whatever reason, they’re making life difficult for themselves.
Overall, Benny Loves Killing is a deliberately paced drama with a powerful performance at its core. Whether Benny’s road is one to complete annihilation or redemption is open to interpretation, though I have my opinion considering the direction the film wraps up in. And while films about filmmakers can sometimes become heavy with film-friendly insider situations and conversations, that is not the case here. Benny is a filmmaker, but this isn’t about filmmaking as much as it is about a person who has chosen to walk that risky road, in keeping with every other risk she has taken on a daily basis.
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