Women Who Kill (2016)

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The closing night Melbourne Queer Film Festival film had me the moment I saw it starred Sheila Vand (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night). It is writer, director and star, Ingrid Jungermann, though who steals the show. This is a comedy, albeit a dark one. Morgan (Jungermann) and Jean (Ann Carr) host a regular podcast called ‘Women Who Kill’ about female serial killers. They are exes who seem like an old married couple; they bicker and banter until Morgan meets the mysterious Simone (Vand) at the food co-op she volunteers for. 

Simone’s mystery is at first a bonus for Morgan who doesn’t like ‘sharing’, where people talk about their feelings. Simone has a locked chest that sits enigmatically on a side table but not even that is enough for Morgan to want to know more. It is only when Jean becomes suspicious that Simone is not who she says she is and as Morgan’s friends caution her about how guileless she is being that a crack appears in her detachment. Interviews with serial killers, the mystery around the crimes of ‘The Clipper’ Walker and the unexpected death of an unlikeable co-op coworker inevitably pull our thoughts, and those of the characters, toward murder.

The humour and deadpan dialogue in this film is a cracker. Morgan and Jean’s wisecracking and humdrum obsession with the worst kinds of murders would make a great basis for a TV series. The overearnestness of recycling, planet-saving, food co-op do-gooders is quietly and relentlessly satirised. It is the well-meaning fascism of their world that perhaps makes Morgan feel safe; rules and scripts stop her from having to know herself. There is a telling scene where Morgan unburdens to Lila Childs, the serial killer who mulched her victims to fertilise her azaleas, and this is where we begin to really understand her.

The secondary characters are strong, often bringing humour and always showing us a different side of Morgan. Vand is satisfyingly alluring and ambiguous in her morality although we never fully understand her. Was I the only one who thought of ‘Girl’ when she disappeared into the dark tunnel and every time she looked up at Morgan with her wide, kohl-rimmed eyes? She carries a menace just from her pervasive presence in such an iconic film – smart and subtle casting.

I found the ending satisfying although a little muddy. I think it is making a statement about Morgan’s fear of vulnerability and its repercussions but a stronger resolution might have earned this one five stars.

Bechdel test – pass
4.5 stars

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