Depending on how you approach John-Paul Nickel’s “Why We Had to Kill Bitch”, you may or may not be disappointed. Approached as a comedy filled with film-savvy post-modern hipsters, it’s a pretty enjoyable little picture with a lot of improv comedy performed by talented people. Taken as a film about some friends who decides to kill the mean-spirited ex-girlfriend of one of their own, it’s a dismal failure. From reading the movie’s synopsis and hearing about it, I was under the impression this was a movie about some friends trying to hide a body. Boy was I wrong.
“Kill Bitch” runs about 70 minutes of actual movie, with some extraneous comedy bits and run-on monologues by selected characters used to fill up the end credits. The film concerns Kevin (Anthony J. Bishop), a film school student who desperately needs a film project for a class. He decides to film a day in the life of his buddy Eugene (Gregory Caridi), a movie theater employee trying to get over his break-up with mean girlfriend and all-around bitch Karen (Kristin Pfeifer). To help their buddy Eugene perk up, Kevin and some buddies try to hook Eugene up with a hot blonde who seems to be interested in Eugene. And as they say in the movies, hilarity ensues.
As a comedy using the “mockumentary” approach, “Kill Bitch” is more than decent. It has good performances by most of the actors, and writer/director Nickel certainly cuts the film together with an unusually high degree of skill. Of note are small snippets intercut with the flow of the film. For instance, when people mention that Eugene is so desperate for female companionship he makes up an imaginary girlfriend and makes out with “her” on a couch, the movie cuts to Eugene doing just that. Other small tidbits like this make the film hilarious.
The film itself was shot on video — either Super VHS or mini DV, since the screener copy was not of good enough quality to really tell. Although the film is called “Why We had to Kill Bitch”, the actual killing of Bitch is probably the movie’s biggest letdown. Those expecting a film about the hijinks involved with disposing of a body (Me me me!) will be disappointed. Bitch doesn’t get her due until well past the hour mark, which means the bulk of the film is Eugene and company engaging in witty banter about all manner of subjects. It’s not a very visually impressive film, and if anything it takes its cue from the Two Guys in a Room indie films that used to flood Sundance et al in the ’90s.
No doubt Nickel took his inspiration from Kevin Smith’s “Clerks”, the granddaddy of all Two Guys movies. In this case, Eugene’s movie theater stands in for Smith’s convenience store, with the employees at the theater providing background chuckles and there is a running gag about a John Travolta period comedy called “Oh Shenanigans”. It’s all in good fun, and the actors and a sharp script certainly makes it all work. That is, if this is your cup of tea. Frankly, I would have liked to see more action in the narrative. For a moment there it seems as if these guys will never leave the theater lobby.
As an independent film, “Kill Bitch” is pretty good. It has a funny script that works because the actors range from decent to very good. The only real bump is Pfeifer as the titular Bitch. Granted, there isn’t a whole lot to be done with a role nicknamed “the bitch” except, well, to play it as bitchy as possible. Still, the character is much too one-note, coming across as overly cartoonish. Another problem is that the movie is crammed with characters, and some scenes are so stuffed with foreground and background action that it’s hard to concentrate on any one part.
But as a very low-budget movie shot on video, “Kill Bitch” is better than it has any right to be. It’s mostly funny and the production value, while stale at times, benefits from a constantly moving camera. The script has a lot of gags to make up for the lack of narrative action, making the movie an easy 70 minutes to sit through. It’s certainly a lot funnier and more entertaining than your average Hollywood big-budget formulaic nonsense, that’s for sure.
Alas, one does wish the film had concentrated more on the whole killing Bitch part. And if not, then at least don’t call yourself “Why We Had to Kill Bitch” because that certainly implies a larger role for something that was so minor in the actual movie.
John-Paul Nickel (director) / John-Paul Nickel (screenplay)
CAST: Kristin Pfeifer …. Bitch/Karen
Anthony J. Bishop …. Kevin
Gregory Caridi …. Eugene
Greg Johnstone …. Quentin
Alison McAtee …. Heather
John Yost …. Stanley