Killing Ariel is a film with a lot of potential. Unfortunately, it fails in numerous ways to live up to this potential. This would be psychological thriller, which has an interesting premise, ends up being rather limp and insipid.
The tale begins from the point of view of a young boy, named Rick, whose father is paralyzed and whose mother cavorts about town with a bald Englishman to meet her physical needs. The two parents fight, and mom shoots dad to death with a shotgun, then does herself in, all the while with little Rick watching in the doorway. We then move in short order to an asylum, many years later, where Rick, played by Michael Brainerd, is taken from his room to be interviewed by a psychologist.
Rick recounts the story of what brought him to the asylum, and why he believes that his mother was seduced by an incubus and why this demon has now ruined his life as well. In his adulthood, he was a successful, and seemingly well adjusted, insurance agent, with a wife and two children. Then, for essentially no reason, he buys a Porsche and starts an affair with the exotic young Ariel, played by Axelle Grelet. Though he does not live there, he still owns the remote house he grew up in, and in which his parents brutally died twenty years previously. Obviously, this is just the place to take Ariel for a romantic weekend tryst. Ariel is a free loving woman, adventurous and sexual, even going so far as to describe herself as a "sex demon". One would think that this would set off alarm bells for Rick, considering his family history, but lust has its tail wound tightly around his middle aged neck, and he forges on, mindless of nothing outside of the forthcoming carnal embrace he wishes to illicitly enjoy.
Once at the home, which is remarkably well preserved and clean for having been abandoned for twenty years, strange things begin to happen. Rick has vivid nightmares of death and murder. Objects move about the house of their own will, and he sees strange women who disappear in an instant. The strange Englishman with whom his mother had the affair, appears to him, oddly naked, and taunts him. Rick begins to lose his grip on reality, and much evil ensues from this point.
Killing Ariel is a film with an intriguing premise, which this reviewer won't divulge here to avoid spoiling the film. With proper execution, the premise could have been turned into a rousing, wild, enjoyable horror comedy. Unfortunately, this film fails to achieve such greatness in a myriad of subtle ways. The performances, at least those of Brainerd and Grelet, are competent, but not inspired. Brainerd tries to reach a level of unhinged genius, but never manages to attain the manic heights necessary. He just doesn't seem that into it, even when called upon to have an impromptu seizure or pound a sharpened wooden spoon through someone's chest with a meat tenderizer. Likewise, Grelet attempts to be the seductive vixen about whom the audience is unsure, never certain whether she is an innocent lover or a nefarious demon. The straightforward performance she delivers leaves little doubt or ambiguity, however, which drains much of the dramatic energy from the film.
The film also suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. It doesn't know whether it wants to be a straight horror / suspense film or a horror comedy. Because of this, the scattered bits of humor, often something akin to slapstick, are off putting and discordant. The viewer doesn't know whether they are supposed to laugh. Everything has been so serious, and now we are presented with some silly blood splatter or physical humor. It's confusing.
This is not to imply that there is nothing good to say about Killing Ariel. The film generally looks good. The production values are solid. The locations, particularly the old homestead, aside from the fact that it looked a little too kept up for a mostly abandoned country house, are realistic and look lived in. The blood and gore effects are effective as well. They are not realistic per se, but lively and fun in the spirit of this kind of film. The few digital effects look amateurish in comparison, and would have been better omitted.
Overall, Killing Ariel fails to live up to its potential. What could have been a great low budget film ends up as only a mediocrity. A clear decision between serious thriller or horror comedy would have given things focus, instead of the confusion as to how the viewer should react. In the end, it is uninspired and uninspiring.