Fantasia Fest 2016: WOMEN WHO KILL Bends Genre Beautifully

 

Fantasia International Film Festival 2016 ran from July 14th – August 3rd in Montreal. Women Who Kill screened July 27th and 28th at the J.A. De Seve Theatre.

Relationships can really be murder. In her feature film debut, Ingrid Jungerman satirizes the need for meaning and drama in personal interactions while also casting a humorous lens on both Park Slope and the social and political aspects of LGBTQ communities. Women Who Kill follows Morgan (Jungermann) and Jean (Ann Carr) as they negotiate their relationship as podcasting partners and the end of their romantic relationship. They may work well together as hosts of their semi-famous true crime podcast, but they find the negotiations of their past with their present difficult, made all the more awkward when Morgan meets Simone (Sheila Vand, of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) who unintentionally brings together Morgan’s private and public life. Women Who Kill is a charming, funny, and oddly menacing tale that uses wit and honesty to explore the difficulties of friendship and romance in modern communities.

Many will know Ingrid Jungerman from her hit web series F To 7th, but I entered this film completely unaware of Jungerman’s work. I knew simply that this film dealt, somehow, with the themes of relationships and serial killers. This lack of familiarity meant that what struck me particularly about the film was the tone. Tone is a funny thing: it can be intangible, but often present in very blatant and powerful ways. Women Who Kill walks a difficult line between an independent comedy film, witty and sharp but with plenty of awkwardness, and the quiet menace of a murder mystery. Perhaps mystery is not the right genre, in that there is not so much tension about clues and discovery as there is about how our protagonist Morgan slips into vulnerability with a character who may or may not be dangerous. I don’t want to say too much about the plot itself and thus spoil the movie, but what struck me about the film was a deep sense of uncertainty. This is not just a clever plot device, though it most definitely is in fact that very thing. It is ALSO a useful way to get at much of the anxiety of the film, which centers around how fluid and difficult to navigate relationships can be. The very structure of the film adds to not just the menace in the plot, but to the sense of insecurity and anxiety about people. People are so unpredictable, so unknowable, as are most of all our very selves. Women Who Kill, even when it is focused on possible murder and the psychology of serial killers, is still also about relationships with difficult people.

Jungerman’s style is loose, almost casual, but with verbal flourishes and cutting insights which suggest careful scripting. The performances are subtle when needed, but also bombastic and hilarious as well. None, though, carry such nuance as well as Vand, who transitions from vulnerable to frightening and back again without a care. Her character is well written, which helps, but her performance feels special in and of itself. I was beyond delighted to see Shannon Patricia O’Neil, who is familiar to me primarily from The Chris Gethard Show, where she brings a joyful irreverence to every episode. I only know her from this talk show format, but based upon that show her character here seems similar, and while there is not much breadth from her, she is still funny and charming in her loud and brash way. I would like to see her in more scripted roles, even dramatic ones, based upon her performance here. Jungerman herself is understated, with a reserved style that some may find off putting. Emoting is not her strongest ability, but neither is it of the character she plays. There are a few moments which are written, I think, to her strengths very well, and she shines in them. The film works because of the strength of its story and the performances, and I found myself charmed as much as I was intrigued by it.

Women Who Kill does not seek to deliver much in the way of thrills, but it is a strong and compelling character piece which nevertheless has some tension. The fact that the tension rests as much in the relationships as the events of the story does the movie well, and helps keep it interesting. It straddles a line, though, and some may feel disappointed in what they find. There are not enough thrills, anxiety, or violence for those seeking a traditional horror film. However, the film is at times quite unnerving. Those allergic to anxiety and violence who want ONLY a humorous and dramatic exploration of relationships between women will also be disappointed. Gender and genre are fluid in this film, both strengthening the whole, both serving to draw an audience into other questions. The humor and drama are, for me, stronger than any thrills in the film, but I have a high tolerance for anxiety in art. Women Who Kill is an entertaining and intriguing film which I found myself thinking about well after it ended, and is well worth your time.

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the author

Liam O'Donnell is a born and raised Philadelphian who loves showing off his city and hopes it will become a larger film-loving community someday. Liam began reading Stephen King in elementary school which of course lead to a deep appreciation for the horror film genre, especially 70s and 80s films but he is open minded. Liam is a deep thinker, creative writer, show promoter, public speaker, and connector between the worlds of hardcore music, food, religion, society, film, and pop culture. He likes coffee, records, comics, his cat, and working on his podcast (Cinepunx.com, get into it!) with the incomparable Joshua Alvarez. @liamrulz @cinepunx http://cinepunx.com