Jun 11, 2019
Today, we welcome back Ryan L. Terry to the podcast, with a review for a film that is very difficult to find outside of a physical release or more, nefarious, pirate-like means. He’ll be up in a minute with a brand new promo, along with his thoughts on this particular film. For a few other classic horror gems, check out 1922’s “Häxan” (Episode #131), 1932’s “White Zombie” (Episode #152), 1962’s “Carnival of Souls” (Episode #145), 1973’s “Ganja and Hess” (Episode #049), and 1988’s “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” (Episode #201).
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Here we go!
Today’s movie is “Office Killer” the 1997 slasher starring comedian Carol Kane, directed by famed photographer Cindy Sherman, written by Elise MacAdam and Tom Kalin. The movie also stars icon Molly Ringwald.
When Dorine Douglas (Carol Kane)’s job as a proofreader for Constant Consumer Magazine is turned into an at-home position during a downsizing with the addition of laptop computers, she doesn't know how to cope. But after accidentally killing one of her co-workers when helping her with some computer issues, she discovers that murder can quench the loneliness of her home life and give her a reason to love her new position. Completely immersing herself in her new hobby, she forms a sort of macabre office space in the basement of her house, complete with the creatively positioned rotting corpses of her former co-workers. To Dorine, murder is art.
The title “Office Killer” works in two ways. It’s a description of how even in the 90s there was a fear that computers would kill the traditional office environment, and (2) the literal description of a slasher in the office. Furthermore, there are plenty of moments and kills that serve as a Freudian commentary on the American workplace. Kane delivers an outstandingly bananas performance that is a combination of Norman Bates and Patrick Bateman. Sherman certainly displays her adoration for the cinematography of Hitchcock’s films in many of the scenes in how the shots are framed and blocked. Not knowing anything about this movie, I was completely unsure of what to expect. Even the first kill didn’t tell me that I was about to watch a slasher. But as I learned more about Dorine, the more I was sucked into her world and completely intrigued by her choices and lack of social awareness. Playing opposite Kane is the indelible Molly Ringwald as the bitchy, judgy coworker Kim. Her performance is great! Not great in that it’s a phenomenal performance, but great in that she showed that she can play a character that is in stark contrast to most of the characters she has played throughout her longstanding career. Most of the performances are caricatures of various people found in a typical office.
What I find most fascinating about the movie and what should provoke conversations amongst cinephiles and horror enthusiasts: the clear Freudian themes. One of the earliest shots in the movie is an extreme closeup (or ECU) of a staff member’s mouth as she is on the phone. Her red lipstick accentuates her mouth and points to the Freudian oral fixation. The scenes that follow depict female office staff members in a variety of different capacities and situations. It appears as though Sherman was painting a portrait of the male gaze over the female body. Moreover, what this movie appears to comment on and depict is Freud’s study on fetishism. According to Freud’s study, and not to over simplify, fetishism is a fixation on an object or physiological practice of a substitution for intercourse following a sexual desire awakening in the body and mind. In more contemporary terms, the definition of fetish has evolved beyond sexuality, but is generally still associated with sexual practices. Since Dorine likely experienced sexual abuse at the hand of your father while her mother turned her head to the allegations, in an effort to deal with the trauma, Dorine substituted what she wanted to do to her parents and others who abuse or bully her by engaging in slasher-style killings. While we may not know precisely why Dorine’s switch flipped and she went full what I’ll call “Norman Bateman”, we are given indicators of her unstable psyche through her flashbacks to her sexually abusive father and complacent mother, and of course, the present story of most of her coworkers bullying her. Those three elements, plus the opportunity, work together to set her up to be a total psycho. Her actual kills may not be creative – that is, the method by which she kills – but the creativity comes into play afterwards with the corpses piling up in her house and she brings work home. She talks to her former co-workers, plays with them, articulates them in such a manner that they become her action figures so to speak. It’s incredibly creepy but in a comedic way.
Perhaps the strength of this movie is not the acting (albeit, Kane is fantastic), but the strength is in the production design, costuming, and Freudian themes. I posit that if this movie came out today, that it would be praised for its embrace of what we love about 70s and 80s slasher movies! We don’t watch and re-watch these movies because they have incredible plots. We watch them because they are lots of fun! And “Office Killer” is incredibly fun to watch. You’re hard-pressed to find many reviews of this horror-comedy even on LetterBoxd. It’s baffling to me why this movie hasn’t received more attention from the horror community on Twitter, blogs, and podcasts. Perhaps it’s because it is so incredibly obscure that you have a hard time even finding it on DVD, let alone streaming. A friend of mine had to order his copy from Spain. That is how difficult it is to find this movie.
Rotten Tomatoes: 12%
One Movie Punch: 7/10
No, seriously, that is my score.
“Office Killer” (1997) is rated Rand is currently available on physical mediaor by more nefarious means.