Coming Soon - Who's Watching Oliver (2018) - Reviewed

Serial killer films are laden with overdone attempts at depravity, usually depicting the aftermath of the acts and focusing on a detective hunting the killer.  Classically, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and recently NBC's Hannibal sought to break the mold, choosing to focus more on the killer's evolution and insight.  The results are controversial, with films such as Henry reveling in its protagonist's evil while Hannibal stylistically explored the nature of predatory killers through an avant-garde lens.  Director Richie Moore's directorial debut feature, Who's Watching Oliver, is a horrifying, no holds barred foray into the mind of a monster, annihilating expectations by attempting to makes its titular murderer sympathetic.  Featuring an unexpectedly brave lead performance, gruesome scenes of sexual violence, and a unique visual presentation, this is a challenging absolutely offensive experience and a thrilling addition to the genre. 

A disturbed loner wanders the streets of Bangkok hunting young women to satisfy a terrible appetite.  His murderous spree is upended when he meets a young woman who threatens to undo everything.  Moore, Raimund Huber, and Russell Geoffrey Banks' (who stars as Oliver) lurid script floats between appalling violence and laugh out loud hysterics at every turn.  One of the most interesting aspects is in how Oliver is portrayed by Banks.  Victims of profound abuse are often mentally trapped at the age/maturity level of when the abuse occurred and Banks’ deep understanding of this pushes the role from forgettable fodder to one of the more nuanced performances in a serial killer picture.  His unflinching dedication to the role, including several despicable simulated acts, multiple scenes of sexual humiliation and nudity, as well as an absolutely soul crushing final act all signifies that Banks is an actor whose commitment to his craft promises a bright future.  

Banks is supported by Sara Malakul Lane (The Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) as Sophia.   Her cryptic role initially seems out of place, perhaps even hallucinatory, however as Oliver's bloody journey of self-discovery spins towards its harrowing conclusion, Lane's chemistry with Banks in addition to her subtle body language reveal her performance to be an essential ingredient.  Completing the unholy trifecta is Margaret Roche, who portrays Oliver's mother.  To speak more of her role would spoil one of the films many disgusting surprises, but Roche's inhumane performance is legendary, emulating both Rodney Dangerfield and Diane Ladd in equal amounts.  The result is a trio of performances that congeal into a horrid apparition whose testament of abuse, mental illness, and murder both blasphemes and prays for forgiveness simultaneously.

Moore's cinematography brims with shadows and the idea of light, more than its active presence.  Each of the kill sequences are shot in such a way that the viewer feels as if they're in the room.  The transitions between Oliver's nocturnal crimes and his daytime trips to an almost haunted amusement park are fascinating, cutting a visual line through his tormented soul, which is the essence of the film.  Whether it is his family, his victims, or his possible love interest, to Oliver, someone is always intruding into his happiness.  Cycles of abuse and madness are prolific, almost hidden things that while everyone is assured of their existence, the general public does not believe in giving them credence until the after the bodies are found and it is this truth that makes Oliver an exceptional black comedy and a heartbreaking examination of these topics.  

Coming July 3rd to digital on demand, Who's Watching Oliver is not a film for everyone.  It is repulsive, vile, and outrageously violent.  Hardcore fans of the genre will be happy with the human creatures that dwell within Moore's blood fueled wasteland of the mind.  Casual fans should be warned, this is a place from which you will not returned unscathed.  However, beyond the unforgivable acts portrayed throughout lies a handful of absolutely astonishing performances in a small intimate film that is infinitely more than the sum of its parts.  This is a horror film first and foremost and a story that challenges the notions of a villain, looking beyond their crimes to the things that created them.   The final result is a movie that challenges convention and corrupts the soul, one uncomfortable Skype chat at a time.

--Kyle Jonathan