Killer Joe is a disturbing, gritty, dark expose loosely billed as a dark comedy. Adapted from Tracy Lett’s theatrical play, director Friedkin’s vision of a tale depicting desperation and impoverished trailer park living will render the average viewer squirming in their seat yet curiously unable to turn away. Joe Cooper is a Texas police officer that is a hit man for hire on the side. When Chris Smith played by Emile Hirsch cannot pay up on his gambling debts he hires Joe, played by Matthew McConaughy to kill his mother so he can collect the insurance money. After the consensus is reached that a retainer cannot be raised Joe comes up with a sinister alternative involving his younger sister Dottie.
Fans of the horror genre will surely recall Friedkin from his legendary film The Exorcist. The innovative and highly controversial film of nearly forty years ago first put this director on the map. Within minutes it’s evident to see this director’s style permeate through the screen still fully capable of delivering an onslaught of unease with a powerful punch.
The cinematography captures darkness both in its figurative and metaphorical sense effectively with its companion of despair. As we witness the comedy of errors and flaws within the Smith family unit we cannot help but pity their way of life, mistakes and decisions they make. The close ups of characters Joe Cooper and Dottie are a broad contrast of depravity, corruption and innocence and purity. Friedkin plays upon our subconscious and virtually smashes through the gates within the inner recesses of our minds.
The rising tension is depicted so subtly and subconsciously between Cooper and The Smiths we engage in the lewd acts while virtually ashamed yet captivated nonetheless. The actions and reactions of the trailer park clan are so outrageous and absurd, it’s a welcome interlude in dark comedy, lightening the onslaught of unspeakable tendencies. Friedkin ups the ante once again plunging the audience’s attention straight back into the fray of insanity. Once the final act is delivered most won’t believe their eyes and it’s no wonder the film was designated an NC-17 rating.
Special effects and make up crews must be commended for an impeccable job of transforming Chris into a bludgeoned, bloody pulp. We feel his consistent pain and discomfort, making his demise even more difficult but impossible not to watch.
Sound effects, rapid camera cuts and over the top performances from an A list Hollywood cast is worth the price of admission alone. Guaranteed viewers will walk away having seen these thespians in an entirely different light.
The Blue Ray selection of the combo is a visual masterpiece that will disappoint few. Some of the special features include an unrated director’s cut and R rated version. A director’s commentary is priceless, getting some valuable insight into what makes such an eccentric artist’s mind work. A red band trailer is available as is a special introduction by the director as well. Episodes titled Southern Fried Hospitality, a documentary in the making of the film along with a Q&A with the entire cast are must see features along with this package as well.