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Friday, February 11, 2011

LOVE AT FIRST KILL -- DVD review by porfle

An eccentric performance by Margot Kidder highlights the tepid thriller LOVE AT FIRST KILL, aka "The Box Collector" (2008).  Without it, the film would be about as bland as a painting of a cardboard box.

Speaking of which, that's the peculiar specialty of young artist Harry (Noah Segen), who lives with his weird mother Beth (Kidder) because she's too flaky to be left on her own.  Harry isn't totally stable, either--he's plagued by nightmares of a woman dragging an unconscious man onto a railroad track, and a persistent childhood memory of hiding under a table while his father has extramarital relations on top of it. 

Beth won't talk about her long-gone husband except to commiserate about male infidelity with her shrewish friend Luz (Adriana O'Neil), whose own husband Burt (Michael Bowen) is a rattlesnake wrangler who has trouble keeping his own snake in his pants.  Beth and Luz are constantly foreseeing doom in their Tarot cards, and when a beautiful woman named Marie (Lyne Renee) moves in next door with her young daughter and starts warming up to Harry, an increasingly hostile Beth really starts to go off the deep end.

It's hard to figure out what LOVE AT FIRST KILL wants to be.  For awhile I was sure it would turn out to be a droll comedy-horror flick along the lines of NIGHT WARNING, especially since Margot Kidder's jealous-mom character bears a resemblance to Susan Tyrell's in that minor classic.  There are some obviously intentional dark-comedy elements, mainly the bickering Luz and Burt and their colorful but largely irrelevent subplot, and the marvelous Kidder chews the scenery while playing a nutty old hag without a shred of vanity.  But the rest of the story is as dry as peeling wallpaper, hinting all the while at a big thriller ending that never comes.

Noah Segan (DEADGIRL, CHAIN LETTER) seems unsure of whether to play Harry as a cool semi-stud or a dimwitted naif, and gets little help from the underwritten script.  In any case, we never really get why a gorgeous babe like Marie, who's hiding out from an abusive husband, should suddenly come on to Harry in true Penthouse Forum fashion and eventually urge him to break Beth's geriatric grip and run away with her.  Lyne Renee (who appeared with both Segan and Bowen a year later in THE HESSEN CONSPIRACY) brings little to the superficial role besides her stunning looks, and her character seems to exist only to give Beth a chance to seethe with ominous homicidal intentions. 

As the film creeps on, with Harry and Marie getting chummier and Beth getting flakier, we look forward to whatever impending freak-out must surely take place in the final minutes.  But just when all that build-up seems on the verge of paying off at last, a surprise "WTF?" moment comes from out of left field to yank the rug right out from under us.  You might call it a "twist letdown", deflating everything that's gone before for the sake of giving the film a frustrating headscratcher ending.  Worst of all, Margot Kidder's character and all its potential (thanks mainly to Kidder's still-considerable acting talent) are ultimately wasted.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and English and Spanish subtitles.  There are no extras. 

I wanted to like LOVE AT FIRST KILL in a dumb-fun sort of way, and was rooting for it to come up with a semi-cool ending to make the rest of it worth sitting through.  But watching it is like digging into a box of cereal for the free prize pictured on front, and coming up with a handful of dry cornflakes. 

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