Killer Joe: The Most Sexually Uncomfortable (Yet Oddly Enjoyable) Film I Have Seen in a Long Time
The deeper you go into some subcultures, the more you see how twisted some people’s views on sexuality can be. Now it needs to be stated that just because something is twisted, doesn’t make it wrong. In some cases, it just makes it taboo and unknown to us. But in some cases, some deviant wants and needs are just wrong. Not only wrong, but immoral, illegal, and unforgivable. So ofcourse, there are directors who choose to use that discomfort for effect in their films, and the end result can be a harrowing moment in a movie, where you are forced to see something your tender soul was completely unprepared to see. One of the first scenes I remember making me feel like that was the scene in The Exorcist when Linda Blair uses the crucifix as a sex toy. That was roughly three taboos being shown to me at once, in tandem. Sexuality of a child, the dangers of religion (lol), and sex in context of child and religion. I still CAN’T make it through that entire film, which is astounding, if you know me. So it only seems fitting that, three decades later, William Freidkin would do it again with his white trash opus, Killer Joe.
To put in perspective just what you are dealing with here, I need to tell you how the movie opens. Actually, how about I just show you? Oh wait, I can’t. Because the movie pretty much opens with a shot of Gina Gershon’s bush. Not even kidding. A lingering shot as Emile Hirsch bangs on the door of a trailer in a rainstorm, and a bottomless Gina Gershon opens the door. Factoring in the height of the trailer, and how there is no porch, her bush is pretty much in his face. Not fake, Hollywood bush, either. This is a naked Gina Gershon who grew in her pubic hair for this role. Hey, remember that stuff I said about male nudity in film? Well, scratch that. She just upped the game. And that is how Killer Joe begins.
Understand I had little pretense for this movie, not even fully knowing if it was a black comedy or a horror film when I saw it. For that reason, I had this sick feeling that stayed in the pit of my stomach the whole time I watched the film. That was the kicker. As fucked up as it was, and it only got more and more fucked up as the story goes on, I couldn’t shut it off. Man, I had no idea what was in store for me when I watched
Magic Mike Killer Joe. Sorry, I confuse those two. Came out at same time, both star Mathew McConaughey in the titular role. Only one has a threeway with a turkey leg, though.
Wait, getting ahead of myself.
I have a great deal to say about William Freidkin’s 2012 film, Killer Joe, as you can see, and up till now, I’ve had no idea how to say it. I know it is based on a play, and I also know it is one of the most uncomfortable movies I have seen in a long, long time. The problem was, I found it incredibly fascinating. I found it fascinating because people like this ACTUALLY exist. Before I get ahead of myself yet again, allow me to explain the premise of the film a bit.
Killer Joe is a movie starring Mathew McConaughey as a cop moonlighting as a hitman, who is hired by a young man to kill his Mom for her insurance money. While that is the gist of it, it is the layers of fucked up characters, as well as the corn-fed, trailer park setting, that makes this like an episode of Jerry Springer on bad LSD. While I won’t ruin the nuances of the film for anyone who may want to see it , I do feel the need to talk about a few of the scenes that messed me up. Read on with caution, SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD. Just sex spoilers, though. Not plot spoilers. I am good like that.
One of said uncomfortable moments was the sex scene between Joe and Dottie, who is played by Juno Temple as if she were fourteen years old, and is used as a human poker chip in this whole story. It should be noted that Juno Temple is of age, and that was the one thing that kept me and, I hope, most other viewers of the film from shutting it off. And Temple’s performance as Dottie is undeniable and unforgettable. Basically, evil, creepy Joe sees pure and light in Dottie, and decides to corrupt that (or use it) via sex and manipulation. And the very first sexual encounter they have is a truly uncomfortable, drawn out scene, where he makes her strip, slowly. Things speed up and she grabs his junk at his command, at which point he asks her what it reminds her of, and she says, in a child like voice “I’m twelve”. Try not to throw up in your mouth with Joe responds with: me too. And it goes on from there. As if that scene wasn’t bad enough in itself, things manage to get even weirder and harder to watch as the movie reaches it mindfuck of a final act.
The scene that really seemed to tap into a weird deviance I had never quite seen on film was the moment between Joe and Sharla (played by Gina Gershon for those not keeping tabs) where he forces her to perform oral sex on a turkey leg at the dinner table, with the entire family present. It may sound silly, but the whole film has a layer of filth to it, so bad you feel like you can smell the movie, and that stench stays with you after the (daunting) experience has ended.
And hats off to Mathew McConaughey here, who plays Joe with a tint of true sadistic joy in his eye the entire time. I will admit, I have mocked Matt before, for being the cool, shirtless guy at the beach party who steals your girlfriend, but has no substance under his abs. After Killer Joe I will admit I was wrong in that assessment. This character would be a career killer if handled wrong, and Mathew seemed to hit all the notes perfectly. A deviant, sadistic sociopath who takes pleasure in pulling the strings of the puppets around him, Killer Joe was the best kind of bad guy. The kind who climbs into the back of your mind and refuses to leave until you suck off a piece of poultry.
Just keep telling yourself it’s a black comedy (which, in the most extreme sense, it is) and you will make it through this unforgettably fucked up ride.