Karla directed by Joel Bender, written by Bender, Manette Rosen and Michael D. Sellers, with Laura Prepon and Misha Collins. A Cristal Films release. 99 minutes. Opens Friday (January 20). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: N Rating: N
L.A. producer Michael Sellers's and L.A. director Joel Bender's recreation of the crimes of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka is as unapologetic as Homolka is about her role in the killings.
They unabashedly base their shallow look at Homolka's role in the sex slayings of her sister Tammy and St. Catharines teens Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French on the snuff videos Bernardo shot. As a result, the movie Karla basically becomes a re-enactment of those videos and offers no context, perspective or analysis of the characters or events.
The three screenwriters (including Bender) use a stock narrative device - Homolka's psychiatric assessment for her parole review - to tell her story through a series of flashbacks, but the script is vacuous and full of gaping holes.
When Homolka removes the blindfold of their second victim (McCarthy, aka Mahaffy), a pissed Bernardo shouts, "She's seen us, and now we're going to have to kill her." But he'd chatted her up face to face when he nabbed her, so surely she'd already have been able to identify him.
Homolka is a complex character, but the movie portrays her simplistically. My own father told me as a teen that if a guy ever hit me once, I needed to make certain he never got a chance to hit me again. Seems that Homolka's father - absent from the movie - neglected to advise her that if a guy beat her dozens of times, "forced her" to participate in her sister's sexual torture and murder and "bullied her" through the killing and dismembering of a random teen, she should forget about marrying him. Homolka is hellbent on marrying Bernardo, and the movie never says why.
Obviously, it wasn't the script that attracted the producers to the project.
The film's most glaring - and repulsive - fault is that it lingers uncomfortably on the events leading up to the murders. These exploitive moments explain why the filmmakers settled for a thin script, uneven filmmaking and inconsistent performances by Laura Prepon (Homolka) and Misha Collins (Bernardo).
It's the crimes that fascinate, not the characters. Because it sheds no light on the latter, the film raises ethical questions about whether it should have been made at all, and about (Montreal-based) Cristal's decision to distribute it.
Karla's producers, L.A.-based Quantum Entertainment, should be funnelling profits to the families of the victims, though by all accounts, they want nothing to do with this film.
It's my hope that people choose to take a pass and there are no profits.