11 January 2009

LINDSAY LOHAN WORKS BLUE

A review by request for reader Laurence C. from Canada.

Admittedly, I'm stretching the definition of "classic" in this case beyond the beyond; even beyond the definition of "classic trash" that I'm indulging myself in for a few weeks. We're talking about a film that came out in the summer of 2007, when this blog was fully operational, and if I'd had any sense at all I'd have seen I Know Who Killed Me when it was sparkling new. But here I am, finally catching up to it, and thank God for that, because this is an extraordinarily bad movie that deserves the slavering praise of every fan of the form: quite possibly one of the worst movies of the '00s, and in ways that not too many movies get to be outrageously, hideously bad. It's a sort of vanity project, a cash-in on a fad that wasn't all that popular to begin with, and it aspires to Art while being handled by a particularly incompetent individual whose skills fall infinitely below the level needed to justify his ambitions. The sheer breadth of the film's badness almost outstrips my ability to comprehend it, but comprehend it I must; and I will beginning by focusing on the simplest and therefore most damaging misstep of the whole. The color blue.

There is a whole lot of blue in I Know Who Killed Me. It is not true that every single shot of the entire film prominently features a blue object, or blue lighting, but a significant majority of them do, and never subtly. By which I mean, this is not the kind of overwhelming blueness that you'd only notice if you're a particularly "close" watcher of movies. Only if you are color-blind could you plausibly fail to observe the colossal tidal wave of Blue on display; the film even acknowledges this fact by presenting as one of its greatest revelations not anything to do with the characters or plot, but its explanation for what blue means. And frankly, having watched the film and learned what blue means, I'm still not at all certain what blue means. Or rather, I'm not at all certain why, given what blue means, director Chris Sivertson felt compelled to use so much of it, and in all the places that he did.

I Know Who Killed Me - a wildly inapt title - tells the story of Aubrey Fleming (Lindsay Lohan), a young woman who plays piano and writes, and does well enough to win a Young Artist award for her musical skills. It happens that Aubrey is abducted by a killer terrorising the streets of New Salem, California (a particularly unwise choice of made-up name; there is a New Salem in the United States, in Illinois, and it's famous as the 1830s home of a young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln), who has already killed one girl after a grisly weeks-long torture regimen involving slowly removing her right hand and foot. Unexpectedly, Aubrey is found after only a couple of weeks, sans limbs but otherwise in perfect health. Her trauma has left her with a weird personality kink, though: she thinks that she's an orphaned exotic dancer named Dakota Moss, and though she claims to know exactly what happened during those lost days, she's not telling anybody.

Here's where the blue comes in: Aubrey's world is represented by that color, while Dakota's is represented by red. Red and blue, such a dichotomy: the one represents passion, sordidness, bodily fluids, fleshiness, while the other... actually, I'm not sure that blue represents anything, classically, but at least we can assume that it represents things Not Red, and since Dakota and Aubrey are primarily different from one another in terms of sexuality and the body, this isn't even a half-idiotic dichotomy. It lets us see at any moment what world we're looking at, and the two colors can be blended to show how Dakota and Aubrey are collapsing in on one another. In theory. In practice, though...

You want to know what color-coding looks like when it's being done well? The Sixth Sense. Back when M. Night Shyamalan was a good director, he decided that ghosts in his movie would be linked to the color red. It's the sort of detail that goes almost totally unnoticed the first time you watch the movie, and once you've noticed it, though you always can spot the tell-tale red in a frame, it's never overwhelming. It's always hidden, subliminal even. Whereas the red in I Know Who Killed Me is screamingly obvious. The first thing we see in the film is Dakota in her capacity of a "stripper" (Lohan, being a Movie Star, obviously would not stoop to something so degrading as showing her goods on camera, and thus Dakota is another in the long line of movie strippers who do a really slow and resolutely unerotic pole-dance as topless waitresses mill around in the background), bathed in garish red light; when she is trying to prove to everyone that she's not really Aubrey, she's always wearing bright red tops, red coats, red objects all over the background, red, red, red. If you can ignore the fact that red=Dakota, you went into the film with the express intention of doing so.

But blue, now that's so overwhelming as to make the pushy use of red seem clever and Hitchcockian. The use of blue in I Know Who Killed Me goes far beyond obvious; obvious would have made it seem like Sivertson was just trying to rip-off David Lynch's Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (and make no mistake, he is, but that's incidental). Sivertson's beyond-obvious makes his film feel like a rip-off of Derek Jarman; it is like having a bright blue railroad spike driven through your eye and your brain erupting blueness. It is blue rings, blue roses, blue cars, blue clothes, blue rooms, blue houses, blue sports teams, blue lights, blue stained glass. It is Lohan wearing a blue dress that reveals her lacy blue bra strap as the killer gags her with a strip of blue fabric while wearing blue latex gloves.

Apocalyptically blue.

This is no mere matter of a director getting in over his head with a useful technique (would that more directors of color films would think to use the color in a significant way!), this is a madman latching onto a single idea and letting it devastate everything its path. With this unholy blueness, I Know Who Killed Me becomes a timelessly bad movie, while without it-

No, I Know Who Killed Me would still be timelessly bad. This is the current record-holder for most Razzies of all time, recall (eight, three of them for Lohan: Worst Actress as Aubrey, Worst Actress as Dakota, and Worst Couple). It deserves that singular title, too. Even if he was shooting in black and white, Sivertson would be a train wreck of a director. He's obsessed with meaningless symbolism, for a start, not just that fucking color, but also owls. All over. Why owls? Why not! And he doesn't know how to shoot torture scenes whatsoever, leaving what would already be one of the worst torture pornos ever floundering about with sequences that would be tawdry and wretched by even the debased standards of the genre: a lovingly graphic scene in which Lohan tries to sew her finger back own is gross and almost unwatchable, but not in any way, shape or form scary or disturbing. The film is the nadir of the "wrong kind" of torture film (the right kind, to the best of my knowledge, exists only in its theoretical aspect): torture as a gross-out exercise for an audience that has not passed mentally beyond the early-adolescent male stage.

Additionally, the film boasts a screenplay, the only one ever written by a certain Jeff Hammond, that contains more gaping holes than most movies not written by an Ed Wood or Coleman Francis. The most persistent is at the very heart of the film's conflict: everyone thinks that Dakota is really Aubrey suffering from post-trautmatic stress, but Dakota insists that she is not and never was Aubrey. The two simplest and most logical ways to address this issue would be fingerprinting, and checking on Dakota's story, but instead of this, the FBI agents in charge of finding the killer take a DNA sample, find that it matches, and call it a day, not knowing or caring that SPOILER identical twins have identical DNA.

And the smaller issues, almost uncountable: the sheer number of Feds looking for a serial killer who has at this point killed one person and is thus not a "serial" anything (and the movie even calls attention to this point!), and who at any rate is not currently thought to have any victims in his clutches; the fact that even once we know who the killer is and what connects his victims, there's no explanation of why, and it makes fuck-all sense on its own merits; that the secret that explains what's going on with Aubrey/Dakota is a paranormal phenomena that was not only invented out of whole cloth for the movie, the movie can't even be bothered to follow its own damn rules. And this says nothing of the dialogue, flat and expository, yet still overbaked and embarrassing.

And the actors! Julia Ormand, who is lovely and good, humiliates herself utterly, especially in a scene where she overhears Dakota having loud sex with Aubrey's boyfriend, and reacts "comically", and generally makes one wonder what crushing debts she had to pay off in a hurry early in 2007; Neal McDonough, an appealing actor with a shocking ability to end up stuck in an unending series of impossibly awful projects, gets to do nothing but wear bright blue contacts and underplay the scene where the Giant Twist is revealed.

And Lohan... poor LiLo, it is known, was coked out of her gourd while shooting, and this explains if not excuses the insipid performance she gives. But I can't help but lament, as I always do when discussing this actress, that the marvelous young woman who seemed ready to conquer the world after Mean Girls burned out so horribly after 2004. I do not know if she will ever be a good actress again, but I know that she has never been and probably will never be this dreadful. I Know Who Killed Me seems designed to have launched the actress into the grown-up phase of her career, with all its grimy torture porn and strip club dancing and saying of the word "fuck". In practice, it effectively killed her career, along with the concurrent stint in rehab. I'd call her film-crushingly terrible, but it's mostly just sad. Her big moment of post-starlet glory was a wreck, and her obnoxiously unhinged lifestyle was the single biggest reason why.

Such a vast, colossal wasteland is this I Know Who Killed Me; the worst film of 2007, and I completely missed it. There is nothing about this film that's even a bit redeeming, and so much that's so utterly wrong that whenever you think "it can't get any worse than this moment", you are proven incorrect, culminating in the absurdly artsy, wholly unsuccessful closing shot.

I love this movie so much that I wish I could have its babies.

3 comments:

liquid_stone14 said...

FRFJKEPOIUHBJBNEMOII98Ujbhjg8ujIIIIIIiiiirrrhh

My visual cortex exploded. Or it had an orgasm, I'm not really sure.

I am at a loss for words to explain how thrilled I am to find out that your piece on this glorious, surreal and unbearably BLUE piece of art-slash-garbage is every bit as scrumpious as I had hoped.

To say 'thank you' would be a criminal understatement.

Though... ''There is nothing about this film that's even a bit redeeming'', I disagree with, in an entirely subjective way, of course. EVERYTHING in I Know Who Killed Me is redeeming, and while tepid, unbelievably bland and monstrously dominating products like Rush Hour 3 rake in gazillions of cash, this intoxicatingly bad film gets to cast its awesome spell on a few viewers, thanks to a near-perfect mishmash of terrible-slash-terrifically terrible ideas. Some crap movies are deadening to watch (for example, the '____' Movies). Some of them are more inspiring to watch than critically acclaimed ones. IKWKM is part of the latter.

I suggest we make love.

The Goddamn Burn/Reading said...

Didn't Lindsay Lohan's mom say she thought Lindsay would get an Oscar nomination for this?

Woodside said...

Holy shit Tim, I haven't seen this but will now seek it out ASAP. That was amazing.

I recommend watching The Canyons. I'd be really interested in reading your take. It kindof reminds me of Verhoeven and also might appeal to your formalist sensability, but Lindsay Lohan is the real surprise, utterly fascinating to watch giving imho the best performance of her career.