Terry Letts

Killer Joe

Exploitation cinema is good for the id. Because the great majority of us are not thieves, murderers, sociopaths, or people with problematic sexual instincts, exploitation cinema provides a safe space and an opportunity to view characters who may be any of the combinations noted above without having to experience the debilitating guilt, life-ending consequences, or moral panic that would incur if we ever engaged in such activities ourselves. In other words, exploitation cinema is a brief respite from a reality mostly determined by standards of law and order, rational behavior, stability, and long-term thinking. Exploitation cinema provides the exhilaration of chaos that is enthralling to witness onscreen, but that one wouldn’t want to encounter in anything resembling reality. While William Friedkin’s Killer Joe is a film that fully earns its NC-17 rating with its portrayals of abject cruelty, predatory sex, and strange and unusual acts of punishment, it’s never a film that asks audiences to take the events onscreen all to seriously as Killer Joe doesn’t even seem to even take itself at face value. The movie’s mood and ending will certainly polarize audiences, but if one is willing to accept and go along with the esoteric tone Friedkin strikes (and there are perfectly legitimate reasons not to do so), then Killer Joe is likely one of the more engaging films of the year if for no other reason than its sheer audacity.

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