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Spanish horror has been prominent on the international scream scene of late, with the likes of “REC” and “The Orphanage” offering another alternative to the increasingly bland tide of remakes flowing sluggishly from Hollywood. “Sexy Killer”, from director Miguel Martí (previously responsible for comedies such as “Fin de curso” and “Slam”) sees the country taking an enthusiastic stab at that most notoriously difficult to nail of subgenres, namely the comedy horror. Hitting the right balance between laughs and scares, whilst delivering enough gore groceries to keep the fans happy is no easy task, though Martí manages to pull it off thanks to a sense of wild abandon, and an anything goes approach which mixes genre references with pop culture campery and a charmingly psychotic sensibility.
The film gets off to a good start, with a little bit of homicidal role reversal as a “Scream” mask wearing would-be peeping tom ends up being brutally dispatched whilst trying to scare some naked girls. The viewer is then introduced to the killer and the film’s protagonist, the murderous Barbara (Macarena Gómez, who genre fans may recognise from “Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt “and Stuart Gordon’s “Dagon”), a glamorous, fashionista medical student, who also just happens to be a very active serial killer. As the bodies start piling up at the university, everyone is soon talking about the dreaded Campus Killer, not least since the police seem to be completely without a clue. Meanwhile, Barbara falls in with Tomas (César Camino, “La Fiesta”), a shy fellow mortuary worker and student who she also believes to be a killer. Whilst this is not actually the case, Tomas does have a secret of his own, a machine designed to translate brainwaves into images, which also has the useful side benefit of being able to reanimate the dead. Obviously, this isn’t great news for Barbara, as her victims are brought back to life, more than a little angry at her, not to mention hungry for human flesh.
Although it’s fairly obvious that as a director Martí is more at home with comedy than horror, this works out for the best, and his refusal to take anything seriously spares the viewer the usual odd shifts and needless cheap scares that tend to drag films of the subgenre down. It certainly helps that “Sexy Killer” is actually very funny, with a wild lunatic edge that takes it into surreally satirical territory like a bizarre, sugar crazed mix of “American Psycho” and Pedro Almodóvar, with a welcome dash of “Re-animator” thrown in for good measure. The jokes come thick and fast, with slapstick, social commentary and sly genre winks mostly managing to find their mark, thanks mainly to the generally crazed and gleefully amoral atmosphere.
Rather than frights, Martí ups the film’s horror quotient by laying on plenty of blood and guts, with some wonderfully inventive murders and some grisly scenes of flesh chomping towards the end. Whilst gory in all the right places, with some real standout, crowd pleasing set pieces, the film is never nasty, and though the killings are not exactly played for laughs, there is no real attempt to gross out or horrify. As such, the splatter sits comfortably beside the comedy, so much so that the film’s bizarre and wacky changes of direction in its latter stages seem almost logical.
Martí’s direction is exceedingly energetic, bright and breezy, filling the film with gaudy colours (lots of garish pinks and yellows) and making for an unashamedly trashy and high camp visual experience. Featuring some highly imaginative and off the wall scenes, including infomercial style murders and flashback musical numbers, the film has a lively, infectious sense of fun and rattles along at a fair pace, wisely clocking in at less than an hour and a half and never outstaying its welcome. Interestingly, Martí takes the brave move of having Barbara directly address the camera, which he succeeds in pulling off thanks to a wonderfully enthusiastic performance from Macarena Gómez, who strikes just the right note of charismatic hysteria. Barbara’s knowledge of the horror genre and bloodlust are likely to endear her to male viewers, though perhaps not as much as the fact that she spends a fair amount of the running time in varying states of undress and alluring costumes, certainly earning the film its title. Her victims are generally scumbags, allowing her to rant about all manner of societal bugbears, which again only makes her even easier to root for as a wide-eyed anti-heroine.
As such, “Sexy Killer” is a film which doesn’t really put a foot wrong, and is one of the very few horror comedies likely to make genre fans crack a smile while enjoying the screen being painted red. Highly creative and endearingly psychotic, it offers irresistible fun and is sure to entertain even the most jaded and grumpy horror addicts.
Miguel Martí (director) / Paco Cabezas (screenplay)
CAST: Macarena Gómez … Bárbara / Sexykiller
Javier Ambrossi … Jaime
Ángel de Andrés López … Inspector
Jimmy Barnatán … Chico jardín
Carolina Bona … María
Javier Botet … Zombie
César Camino … Tomás
Nadia Casado … Clara
Andreu Castro … Edu