Office Killer

October 16, 2013 at 1:57 am (7 Heads, Office Killer) (, , , , )

Office Killer – 1997 – United States

A nerdy introvert named Dorine lives with her senile mom and writes for the (satirically named) magazine, Constant Consumer. After accidentally electrocuting her boss, she inexplicably keeps the body in her basement and begins a killing spree. Her motives are confusing as she stabs, beats, and poisons her coworkers, plus some random Girl Scouts. Apparently Dorine’s derangement is related to the violent death of her sexually abusive father, but it never adds up. As bodies fill her basement, she cuddles with them and cleans them with Windex. In blatant disregard of realism, she is never suspected of her crimes and eventually leaves town to take her murderous rampage abroad.

Office Killer was conceptualized and directed by Cindy Sherman, a notable portrait photographer who often posed for her own photos in grotesque and disfiguring makeup. Sherman’s style is prevalent in the film’s weird, cartoonish characters. Dorine wears fiendish makeup and is so socially awkward she seems mentally handicapped. Her demented mother is wistfully vacant. Her bitchy boss is ferociously addicted to medication. And everyone speaks with whining affectations or New York accents.

It is uncertain if Cindy Sherman’s background in photography influenced Office Killer’s cinematographer, but every image is carefully composed with elegant long takes highlighting the compositions. Creative lighting gives the office and apartment locations a shadowy sepia look. In one beautiful moment, a woman’s face is washed by undulating radiance from a photocopier, and the opening credits are projected over the silhouettes of innocuous office minutia in a formally striking way.

But Office Killer’s best asset is Carol Kane as Dorine. In his book Creature Features, John Stanley claims, “nobody plays freaked-out psychopathic murderers better than Kane. What great bats that actress has in her belfry.” Dorine’s strangeness is disturbing yet endearing, until her astoundingly spastic unhinging following her mother’s death. It is absurd, yet so convincing I suspect Kane must be a maniac herself.

Although Office Killer is cruelly funny, the intent of its constant satire is baffling. While it is unclear if the audience is supposed to sympathize with Dorine, it is hilarious when she wields rotting severed hands to tease her cats. Also, the writer’s poor understanding of computers, police procedure, poison, and electricity creates some ridiculous situations. Whatever. Watch it for Carol Kane’s shocking performance.

Rating: 7/10 Shrunken Heads. It would also be cool if Cindy Sherman played Dorine.

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