Amateur Porn Star Killer
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After having just watched the Shane Ryan short film collection, BIG BOOBS, BLONDE BABES, BAD BLOOD, I was aware of what a flamboyantly visual director he can be. So when I popped in AMATEUR PORN STAR KILLER (2006), my first feature-length Ryan film, I expected more of the same. Little did I know that, here, he would almost completely eschew any semblance of style in order to create a straightforward cinema verite' experience presented solely through the lens of a video camera in real time.
The video camera belongs to Brandon (Ryan), a serial killer who coaxes young women to strip and have sex with him for the purpose of making "amateur porn films", while his actual intention is to make snuff films. He does this only for his own sick gratification, not to sell them--in fact, we're told in the postscript that he likes to rent movies at various video stores, replace them with his own horrific home movies, and return the tape cases to the store to be rented later on and viewed by unsuspecting patrons.
As the movie opens, we see Brandon getting ready to leave the house to cruise for his next victim. (During much of the film there's also a picture-in-picture view of one of Brandon's earlier on-camera victims, played by the beautiful Jan Gould, who does a striptease and eventually engages in sex with him. We never see him kill her, though, so is this simply for our voyeuristic gratification, or is it a statement about voyeurism? Or both?) Brandon keeps the camera running all the time, so even when he isn't carrying it, it sits somewhere and records his actions. Thus, we follow him as he gets in his car, drives the dark streets for awhile, and pulls to the curb to lure a young girl named Stacy (Michiko Jimenez) into his car. They drive to a motel, where for the next hour or so Brandon will coax and cajole the shy, reticent Stacy into eventually removing her clothing a little at a time for the camera. He starts out with friendly small talk, joking about what kind of movie they are going to make ("How about a documentary about you?" he laughs), and gradually begins to introduce the subject of amateur "adult" films.
Except for very few cuts, this is all done in real time, and most if not all of the dialogue is improvised. In an interview that is included with the movie, Michiko Jimenez tells us: "Well, before we started filming, he just told me the storyline, and that's just where I...I don't know, just put myself into character. Just act what he told me, and it just came out natural, I don't know. I didn't have any lines--I just did it right off the top of my head, basically..."
In my review of BIG BOOBS, BLONDE BABES, BAD BLOOD (I hate typing that dumb title), I mentioned how good she was in the short film "The Cold Heat", and here she's amazingly believable. Her "Stacy" sits on the bed nervously responding to Brandon's prodding questions, glancing around, smiling sheepishly, playing with her hair. Although eighteen at the time, she really seems to be the thirteen-year-old girl she's portraying, and, knowing what will eventually happen, we hate Ryan's character for using her with such evil intent.
"And because of 'The Cold Heat', it kinda broke the ice in order to do this."
On and on this goes--AMATEUR PORN STAR KILLER certainly isn't the nail-biting, body-count slasher film suggested by the title--until I was beginning to write it off as a failed experiment on Shane Ryan's part. At around the half-hour point, Stacy hesitantly removes her jeans; much later her top comes off. Not that I wanted her to do this, mind you--I just wanted the poor kid to get the hell out of there--but I was anxious for the story to advance at more than a snail's pace. Gradually, though, Brandon moves into camera range and begins to fondle her. She obviously doesn't like it, but we see him grinning with a perverse, growing excitement (he looks a bit like Ralph Fiennes in SCHINDLER'S LIST) that is only increased by her trembling unwillingness.
"It was very...it was very realistic, actually. I mean, there were a couple of times when I had to take breaks, you know what I mean, cuz it was so intense."
Finally all pretense disappears and Brandon is having rough sex with Stacy as the camera impassively observes. At one point, there are a few blurry, shadowy shots that make it appear as though Shane Ryan's erect "member" has actually joined the cast of the film. Which made me wonder: am I watching an exploitation flick about a guy who makes amateur porn movies? Or a porn movie with artistic aspirations?
"It's to show how bad porn can get, actually, you know?"
At any rate, Ryan seems to be making a point about voyeurism here, although this is hardly the sort of thing I would watch in order to satisfy that particular impulse. In fact, I almost wanted to take a shower after it was over, especially after seeing what happens at the end. Without the normal conventions of plot or any traditional cinematic devices (besides an evocative musical score by Daniel A. Scott and Boneshin), AMATEUR PORN STAR KILLER is basically our ticket to a slow, relentless descent into depravity, presented in a disturbingly realistic manner. There's no blood 'n' gore, no graphic violence, no need to consult Tom Savini for technical advice.
What finally happens at the end is no less shocking for its sudden, matter-of-fact inevitability; in fact, after such a slow, sometimes boring build-up, it really comes as an emotional payoff. And the image of Brandon raising his foot and slamming it down as one would squash a cockroach, revealing at last just how truly demented he is, isn't easy to forget. This movie has stayed on my mind off and on since I watched it, but I can't say whether or not I really "liked" it. I've even had a hard time deciding what rating to give it. But it certainly had a lasting effect on me, which would seem to indicate that Shane Ryan succeeded in what he set out to do here. AMATEUR PORN STAR KILLER is definitely an unforgettable work by a talented filmmaker. I'm just not sure I'll ever feel like seeing it again.
"...but I will, eventually. I will eventually watch it."
Added: Monday, June 12, 2006
Related Link: Official page
Language: eng[ Did you find this review helpful? Yes No ]
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