When it comes to having a serial killer being used as the main character or used as the anti-hero, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and of course Dexter are titles that first come to mind. The difference between these two titles is that we understand their code, or see the lack of code, when it comes to whom they choose to kill. It’s escapist entertainment, and I appreciate the morbidity of rooting for such deplorable characters, but that’s what cinema and television do; they take us along for a ride that reality cannot. When it comes to Dead West, we’re on board for a cross-country trip with a serial killer, but sadly this is a trip that had me reaching for the door handle before arriving at our destination.
When we first meet “The Ladykiller” (Brian Sutherland), he’s at a honkytonk bar in Texas and has his eye on one of the patrons who seems to have an eye on him as well. After a little small talk, he leads her behind the bar, and after he decides she’s not to his liking, he kills her. Apparently this is the M.O. for the killer, killing pretty young blondes, except this blonde has a brother Tony (Jeffrey Arrington) who wants revenge for his sister’s death. It’s a simple setup to get the story rolling, but the problem is there is nothing much else on display.
The problem I have is that “The Ladykiller” (basically he constantly changes his name, so I’m just going by his credit listing) can’t seem to make up his mind on what fits the parameters of a victim. One moment he’s killing a woman for being too forward, the next he’s coming to the rescue of a woman being abused. Then later in the film we see him attack and kill a man for hitting a kid. I’m not saying I’m defending the child abuser, but it just seems the filmmakers really want us to like this guy who kills people. The kills seem to be random and without thought, serving to only grow the body count in the film. We see this killer who seems to have a moral code but refuses to see his own hypocrisy. Even Dexter understood murder was wrong, and he was doing a good deed, but we saw him struggle with his choices. “The Ladykiller” seems to just kill because the mood strikes his fancy.
He’s a sociopath; why am I making a big deal of this? Well, we later find out when he encounters Roxy (Meagan Naser) that he’s having his cross-country trip because he’s looking for love. Oh boy, this just takes me down a path where I’m just flabbergasted about how any of his decisions really fit this logic. The flaw in this character trait, if he’s offended with a woman being forward or smoking, why is he then killing them after he’s slept with them, but he meets the prostitute and doesn’t try to sleep with her. My head is spinning with this character who just has no focus.
I’m also having a little trouble with the pace of the film. At one point we have a film about a vengeful brother seeking to take the life of his sister’s killer, and he’s traveled days to catch him. Then the later portion of the film is about “The Ladykiller” wanting to avenge an abused prostitute who has been robbed by her pinp. In concept I enjoy this direction; in execution it just falls apart. It’s more than obvious that writer/director has seen Jeff Ferrell’s True Romance, but there comes a point where there are certain iconic scenes you just can’t recreate.
Despite the film being shot on a budget, it’s nice to see the variety of sets and locations the film takes us to. They clearly could have saved some money and cut out some locations, but it goes a long way in letting us see the distance traveled by “The Lady Killer”. The film is rough, but it’s ambitious. I can appreciate that they wanted to do something more than your typical killer/revenge film, but sometimes keeping it simple goes a lot further.