WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
NYU grads Diane Doniol-Valcroze and Arthur Flam's debut feature Kill by Inches is a maddening film. It contains creepy-as-hell sequences that are downright hair-raising. Its prologue sequence starts things off chillingly. Its off-kilter score gets further and further under your skin, shoving goosebumps to the surface. A few of the film's ponderous, wordless scenes are truly effective. But the movie as a whole can't overcome the fact that it is wildly disjointed, uneven, and so boring—at times—that your yawns will threaten to swallow your head.
Kill by Inches tells the story of a young, withdrawn, incompetent tailor named Thomas (Emmanuel Salinger), who's going slowly insane under the domineering eye of his father (Marcus Powell) and the frowning, vaguely incestuous gaze of his expert-seamstress sister Vera (Myriam Cyr). Oddball customers wander in wordlessly…significant looks pass between brother, sister, and father…and plot developments creak and echo across the gloomy room, along with aggressive symbolism involving birds and a suspended needle. Does it all lead to murder, or has Thomas just finally slipped into the deep end? Do we care?
Set in New York—with, in one shot, a sad, ghostly, distant view of the World Trade Center—the film nevertheless has a dark European look and feel. At times, the atmosphere, the long, creepy silences, and even the editing reminded me of the early films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen and City of Lost Children), or even Polanski, but to lesser effect. The filmmakers here seem to be aping established styles, and doing so inconsistently. In the final 20 minutes, the film changes gears abruptly, going for Lynchian weirdness, but by then the movie has lost whatever grip it might have had on its audience. (A final note: Although advertised on the back cover as an 85-minute film, the actual running time is about 76 minutes, making it barely a feature film.)
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Here's how not to transfer a film to DVD. Take a dirty print, complete with ugly reel markers and an ever-present, supremely annoying case of film weave. (Look at those shifting opening credits!) Present it in non-anamorphic, approximately 1.66:1 letterboxed widescreen. Give it a flat look, with washed-out colors and muted blacks that contain practically no detail. Permit all kinds of smearing, halos, digital artifacts, and pixelation. Wrap it up in a bow, and you have the DVD presentation of Kill by Inches.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The mono presentation is merely serviceable. The creepy music, as mentioned above, does add to the film's presence. However, it's reproduced only at the center channel. This is a music track that would certainly have benefited from surround encoding.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
You get the film's full-frame trailer, which in some respects is more effective than the feature film. You also get filmographies of the two lead actors.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
Kill by Inches wants to be more effective than it is. It wants to creep you out—and in some sequences it succeeds—but when the final credits roll, you'll feel swindled of goosebumps.