Can “The Killer Inside Me” Ever Be Satisfyingly Brought to Screen?

Can “The Killer Inside Me” Ever Be Satisfyingly Brought to Screen? (photo)

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If ever there were ever a book destined to both invite and elude a satisfactory film adaptation indefinitely, Jim Thompson’s 1952 pulp magnum opus “The Killer Inside Me” is it.

Much like Walker Percy’s 1961 novel “The Moviegoer,” the spare prose, snapshot precise detail and intimate first person narration of “Killer” project a film directly into the reader’s head more lucid and haunting than anything likely arrive on a movie screen via creative committee.

And, at least as far as Hollywood is concerned, the lead characters in both books (a genial psychopath deputy sheriff in Thompson’s, and an emotionally unreachable Korean War veteran in Percy’s) aren’t exactly the kinds of seize the moment protagonists typically tasked with driving three acts of complications and changes to a satisfying climax that leaves an audience with happily shaking heads when the lights come up.

To my knowledge “The Moviegoer” remains in development limbo as an option contract, some script drafts and memos in a production company file cabinet somewhere in Culver City. Thompsons’ book, on the other hand, was previously adapted to film in 1976. This first attempt proved to be a particularly star-crossed production during which the original director was replaced by former Budd Boetticher screenwriter turned maker of comedy Westerns Burt Kennedy.

06162010_tkim1976.jpgKennedy’s efforts yielded a film notable primarily for squandering the considerable off kilter charisma of actress Susan Tyrell, paired for the second time with Stacey Keach her co-star from John Huston’s essential 1972 skid row prize fighting romance, “Fat City.”

According to author Joe Polito’s meticulously researched biography of Thompson — who along with two dozen novels co-wrote screenplays for Stanley Kubrick’s “The Killing” and “Paths of Glory” — was still ruing the finished result (and the small amount of option money he accepted for it) on his deathbed when he passed away in 1977.

Whatever faults “24 Hour Party People” and “Welcome to Sarajevo” director Michael Winterbottom’s new adaptation of “The Killer Inside Me” may have, the contempt Kennedy’s shrug of a picture had for its source is not one of them. Instead of opting for a modern dress updating like the 1976 film, Winterbottom and co-writer John Curran have sent “The Killer Inside Me” back to within a half decade or so (judging by the dates of the film’s period music cues) of the novel’s post-war southwestern milieu.

There Lou Ford (Casey Affleck), a clean-cut deputy sheriff in an oil boomtown called Central City, good-naturedly accepts an assignment to visit a suspected prostitute named Joyce (Jessica Alba) on the outskirts of town her in order to encourage her to move on.

06162010_tkim03.jpgBut Lou’s gift for avoiding antagonism (he proudly admits to one law-abiding citizen that despite the badge he doesn’t carry a gun) is turned off, and something very dark within both him and Joyce is turned on after a few slaps in anger lead to some full contact expressions of consensual outré sexuality in Joyce’s boudoir.

While Lou and Joyce carry on clandestinely, Lou’s fiancé Amy (Kate Hudson) is running out of patience waiting to for Lou to pull the trigger, so to speak, on their wedding plans. Joyce, meanwhile, is the object of a financially convenient but otherwise unwelcome fascination by Elmer Conway (Jay R. Ferguson), son of the ruthless town construction magnate Chester Conway (Ned Beatty doing his best work in decades) who may or may not have been responsible for the death of Lou’s…

Well, if you’re familiar with Thompson’s book or with the work of almost any writing graduate of the Black Mask magazine school of crime literature that produced Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, Cornell Woolrich and the like, you already know what’s in store. What’s unusual about the novel has more to do with character than with plot, anyway.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.