When Snuff first hit theaters in 1976, it caused the kind of controversial uproar that only a couple of creative exploitation pioneers could manage. Michael and Roberta Findlay, responsible for the amazing proto-slasher series The Flesh Trilogy (The Touch of Her Flesh, The Kiss of Her Flesh, The Curse of Her Flesh), used a 'made in South America, where life is CHEAP' tagline and some fake death footage to doctor up their biker bungle entitled Slaughter. The ensuing PR turned the otherwise incoherent film into an overnight cause célèbre. Pundits preached about its depravity while the intrigued lined up in droves to turn over their hard earned cash. In many ways, the backstage ballyhoo that created the phenomenon was more interesting than the lame special effects onscreen. It began an entire underground myth that still remains to this day. While there's never been any concrete proof that such sleazoid efforts actually exist, the lurid appeal lingers. That may explain Amateur Porn Star Killer, another supposed post-modern snuff saga. Then again, there is very little that can excuse this paltry, pathetic effort.
Brandon enjoys picking up girls, screwing them, and then killing them. To add some additional spice to his sickness, he captures it all on camera. One of his victims was Loren, a blond babe who was more than willing to go along with the maniac's sex film set up. Later, we meet Stacy, a young gal hanging out at a local strip mall. Our killer picks her up, takes her to a hotel room, chats her up, and then convinces her to undress. He molests her, discovers her true age, yet still forces her to give him oral sex. They copulate. He kills her. The end.
If you have the audacity to scream "snuff film" you better have the cinematic huevos to deliver on such crass carnival barking. No, we don't want to see you actually murdering your neighbor/spouse/significant other on screen. That's a crime, an abomination, and reserved for only the most depraved of sociopathic minds. What we're talking about here is realizing and fully understanding the vacuous reasons why such an exploitation non-reality remains a viable urban legend, why people, without any proof of its existence, want to believe in the notion of movies where actual death is captured. Of course, a quick Google through the Internet will unlock all manner of accidental and/or purposeful killing clips - criminals being shot dead by police, sullied politicians committing suicide 'live' during a press conference. And yet, such satisfaction of one's most morbid curiosity is not enough. What the snuff film fan wants is some sleaze, mixed with the ultimate perverted pop shot. Call it crossing the last line, or busting open the final motion picture taboo, but the adolescent level fascination with how we die continues to fuel a hundred foul fantasies. It's also responsible for several shoddy films.
It's time to add Amateur Porn Star Killer to the short list of unwatchable wastes of time. Crafted by couple Shane Ryan (co-writer/director/star) and Michiko Jimenez (co-writer/star), this pick up smut slasher experiment thinks it has found a novel, neo-Blair Witch way to make a dull first person POV production resonate with retail possibilities. Mixing borderline XXX gratuity with a pseudo-realistic recreation of your typical pedophile/victim playdate, the results are horrific, sickening, sad, uncompromising - and impossible to enjoy. Some may argue that this is exactly the filmmakers' point, that we are supposed to feel queasy as 'been there before' Brandon gives cat curious 13 year old Stacey the retro rapist rap. While images of a standard softcore sex romp unfolds in the corner, our glazed over gal does her best impression of a statue. With a blank, so ready to be a statistic stare, we instantly recognize the foul intent. Not only is the implication of death captured on camera supposed to tweak our social acceptability, but the underage angle is meant to get our Dateline-style moralizing up in arms. It's all cautionary tale telling and ugly bumping. Granted, we never once believe in the reality of this situation - especially since the filmmakers (or the DVD distributor) break the fourth wall from the start.
All throughout the title card prologue, we get clear indications that this is fiction. A quote from writer/director Paul Schrader (Hardcore, Taxi Driver) indicates that snuff films don't exist. Then, we get the standard opening credits including the real names of everyone involved. At least Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez had the good sense to leave all that information until after Mike was seen standing in the corner. Others who have reviewed this film talk about receiving a barebones videotape with just the footage - no cinematic set-up or indication of actors or artificiality. Offered that way, this might work (and that's a mighty big "maybe"). Without commercial context, Witch's mock doc dimensions helped hype the experience. But since we know that two like minded moviemakers are having onscreen oral sex for the benefit of the audience, all pretext peters away. Instead, we end up with a self-indulgent, purposefully puerile exercise in sleaze that's more nauseating than knowing. And again, we are told this is a 13 year old being exploited. The disconnect between proposed entertainment value and inexcusable sensationalizing is so vast you could drive a derrick through it. Amateur Porn Star Killer is desperate for you to believe in its authenticity. The only thing you'll have faith in is how foul and forgettable it all is.
Suffering from one too many passes through the post-production aging software, the shot on digital image offered by Cinema Epoch is dodgy to say the least. Loaded with fake scratches, a constant stream of manufactured sprocket jumps, and a purposeful 'darkening' once the blowjob arrives (there are still enough hints for psychos to get their repugnant rocks off), Amateur Porn Star Killer looks like it was created by someone with too much after wrap party time on their hands. It's barely watchable at times, the grainy and dim hotel room material contrasted by far too bright segments of Loren and Brandon simulating sex. The 1.33:1 transfer it presentable, but very far from perfect - on purpose, of course.
Using a 'caught on camcorder' style of sound recording, Amateur Porn Star Killer is almost indecipherable at times. Brandon and Stacy mumble incoherently, the internal mic picking up every other word. Perhaps this is supposed to deliver an aura of realism to their 'seduce and smother'. All it does is aggravate the hell out of the viewer. Frankly, even if the dialogue was on a Tarantino level of talking, we really wouldn't care. The dull Dolby Digital Stereo mix masks most of the conversation, while piddling indie rock guitar noodling passes for underscoring.
Containing a collection of short films, a walk through of the locations used, a behind the scenes interview with Ryan and Jimenez, and some trailers, the digital package here is fascinating, if not wholly successful. As for the other movies provided, it is clear that we are dealing with someone who enjoys reproducing sex onscreen. So We Killed Our Parents and The Cold Heat both feature fake fornication, while Lucifer's Mind and The Pure Exodus are laced with unnecessary nudity. Blood is also a filmmaker focal point. About the only place it isn't present is in the opening effort, The Snake's Kiss Good-Bye. All of these features have potential. They are also very problematic. They fail to tell compelling stories, and substitute visual overkill for any kind of narrative comprehension. Luckily, the other extras are more interesting. The Q&A provides some clarity, and the location overview has its own intriguing aspects. About the only valid element of the Amateur Porn Star Killer DVD is this added content.
It's hard to say if Amateur Porn Star Killer is totally irredeemable or just completely wrongheaded in approach and follow through. Since the first word in the title is the most apropos, this critic may be willing to cut the filmmakers some totally unearned slack. As a pair of pretend auteurs, working a wanton angle for all it can muster, Ryan and Jimenez deserve some minor credit. Besides, if you're looking for some ersatz smut without having to sneak on over to the adult aisle, the replicated (and actual) aspects here might tweak your tendencies. Still, as an overall experience, bereft of anything remotely engaging or involving, this failed film deserves a Skip It. There is no reason to waste 71 minutes of your otherwise valuable and always precious time. If Brandon really exists (as the closing credits suggest), then here's hoping he learns something about camera control, shot selection, action framing, performance, and pacing before he cobbles together another 'you are there' creation. As a concept, a fake snuff film has long standing cinematic possibilities. Sadly, Amateur Porn Star Killer can't find a single one of them.