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Karla (January 19/06)

Given just how hopelessly inept and thoroughly awful Karla quickly reveals itself to be, it seems fairly obvious that the film would've otherwise premiered on cable or video had it not been for all the controversy surrounding it. And it's just as apparent that potential viewers will only be looking to satisfy their morbid curiosity, as the film ultimately has absolutely nothing new to contribute to the debate surrounding Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

Far more troublesome, though, is the movie's attempt to paint Homolka as yet another victim of Bernardo's sociopathic antics - despite the fact that it's long-since been established that she was just as culpable as Bernardo. Canadian viewers will have no problem recognizing the absurdity of this aspect of Karla, but folks unfamiliar with the case might actually come to sympathize with Homolka (an outrageous thought if there ever was one).

The movie - which details the early days of Bernardo (Misha Collins) and Homolka's (Laura Prepon) relationship, as well as their eventual killing spree - has been helmed by Joel Bender, a filmmaker best known for his work on schlocky titles such as Gas Pump Girls and The Immortalizer. His straight-to-video pedigree couldn't possibly be more obvious, as he infuses Karla with some seriously flat visuals and an almost non-existent sense of pacing. As a result, the movie comes off as a typically disposable, utterly forgettable serial killer thriller.

Bender's efforts to liven up the proceedings generally fall flat, and there's no denying that most of his choices - including an operatic score that's best described as self-important and a bizarre emphasis on slow-motion cinematography - serve only to highlight the inadequacies in his direction. The whole thing is just dramatically inert, a problem that's exacerbated by Prepon's subpar performance. As good as she is on That '70s Show, Prepon just doesn't have the chops to convincingly step into the shoes of such a complex character (something that's particularly noticeable in the film's more dramatic sequences). The actress is never quite able to transform Homolka into fully-formed, entirely believable character, though - to be fair - the blame for that should also be placed on the overly simplistic screenplay.

Of course, she's practically Oscar-worthy compared to the shockingly amateurish supporting cast; the majority of these people seem as though they'd be more at home doing community theater. Consequently, there's virtually nothing here worth recommending, and there's little doubt that the film wouldn't even exist if it weren't for the notoriety surrounding the case.

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