Wednesday, June 7, 2006

The Ugly (1997)

The Ugly is a psychological thriller about a serial killer named Simon who has been locked up in a mental institution for the past six years. A psychologist, Dr. Karen Shoemaker, is brought in to interview him and to try to get inside his head. Simon's life from young boy up to serial killer fruition is told through a series of flashbacks. As Karen delves deeper into Simon's past, he starts to get into her head.

Simon is a seemingly nice, meek and cute fellow, who tells Karen that "the visitors" make him kill. He doesn't consider himself a serial killer, as it is his alter ego, "the Ugly," who enjoys the killing. For Simon, killing is just a respite from the visitors, who torment him endlessly to kill again. Simon's first "visitor" was his own mother, whom he killed as a young boy. He spent some time in a juvenile facility, but just as soon as he was out he started killing again. He followed no pattern, just killed whoever the visitors told him to. He was finally caught by the police when he killed someone he knew, his childhood friend Julie.

Simon draws Karen (and the audience) in with his little-boy-lost look. Karen continues to push him to reveal why he killed so many people, but Simon simply blames the visitors. In the end, Simon embraces his true nature and accepts that he enjoys killing, saying "I am cured."

This was an ok low budget movie from New Zealand. I enjoyed how Simon's flashbacks were conveyed in more of a dream-like (or nightmarish) atmosphere. In his flashbacks, the blood of his victims was black, not red, to signify the flashbacks existed outside of reality. In the final scene, when Simon kills again, the blood is red for the first time in the film, signifying that the murder did happen here and now. I thought Paolo Rotondo, who played Simon, was terrific. I felt both sympathetic and repulsed by his character, which can be pretty tricky. It was also hard to tell if Simon was just manipulating Karen or if he was really telling her the truth. Very well played by Mr. Rotondo.

On the other hand, this movie was a little slow, especially towards the middle. It kind of stagnates for a bit, not really going anywhere. This hurts it a lot, as it really failed to entertain me. I just felt like I was wasting time with this movie. Also, it was not scary. Sure, it had its gory parts - Simon kills his victims with a straight razor, at least most of the time - but nothing in this film makes you jump out of your skin. Also, it seemed like it spent too much time making Simon the victim (he was bullied and had an overbearing mother as a child) and playing upon the audience's sympathy for him.

This movie is not as shocking as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer or as clever as Silence of the Lambs, but if you enjoy movies that try to get into a killer's head, you may enjoy this one. Not bad for a low budget movie, just a tad too slow for me.

Check it out on Amazon!

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