Benny (Pauline Cousty) is a French student living in London trying to direct her first horror film. Even though she is enrolled on a theoretical Film course, she wants to submit a feature film as a dissertation as she feels it is more creative and personal. After moving out of her unassimilated lonely mother’s flat, she begins to sleep on any sofa that friends and acquaintances will provide, which fuels a growing kleptomania and drug addiction.
The first feature film from Ben Woodiwiss is a love letter to cinephilia and the love of genre. The protagonist is a passionate horror fan who understands and champions the importance of interpretation of films and the intelligence of filmmaking.
Benny floats around London in a soft-focus haze of cigarettes and joints, refusing to wash through a dislike of the feeling of water. Her professors are trying to empathise with her creativity, yet remind her that she will only keep her funding if she conforms to their criteria for the course.
The men in the film are all represented as threatening, another nod to horror conventions, which means that Benny engages almost entirely with other women. This means that there are a rich diversity of three-dimensional female characters, from the reluctant star of Benny’s film to the paranoid drug dealer, that are refreshing to see.
The film manages to create a dialogue with the audience over genre conventions, both by having them central to the content and the form. In other words, by having the central character discussing horror genre conventions throughout the narrative, the audience is being positioned to interpret the technical conventions of the film we are watching in a more active way.
Benny Loves Killing is arguably a drama, but Benny (the character) is talking about her film in such a way that we begin to interpret the film (BLK) more as a horror, with the impending sense of dread that horror films are designed to deliver. This sleight of hand makes the film an infinitely more enjoyable experience, as it offers alternate readings and interpretations as the plot develops.
Pauline Cousty, who plays Benny, gives a brilliantly tortured and subtle performance as a young woman who is unsure whether to emulate or simply observe the people around her. She moves at times like a bird that is investigating its surroundings, picking at jewelry and other trinkets in the houses that she has broken into.
As a debut feature film, Benny Loves Killing acts a manifesto for more intelligent film production. The budget was small but the attention to detail is really high, allowing the audience to interpret what they are given instead of passively accepting ‘the narrative’. It consciously involves the audiences in the process of filmmaking and therefore challenges us to work harder in interpreting and deconstructing the films that we watch.
Both Ben (the director) and Benny (his on-screen alter ego) are directly addressing us all to think more about films, which is a message I wholly endorse...