Thursday, April 4, 2013

Office Killer (Cindy Sherman, 1997)

Have you ever wondered where all those energetic young people carrying backpacks are going when you see them walking around during the early morning hours? If you have, let me fill you in. They're headed to these large buildings filled with hallways that are lined with little metal boxes (if they want, I suppose they can put their backpacks inside these little metal boxes). What they actually do once inside these asbestos-filled buildings is anybody's guess. But after four years, some of them head over to another building to do a, I guess, variation of the same thing they did in the building they just left. Oh, and like the previous building, they usually spend about four years there. Why, you ask, did they spend such a huge chunk of their lives cloistered away in these unsightly structures? Well, to the best of my knowledge, they did it in order earn the opportunity sit in buildings that contain something called an "office." However, unlike the other buildings, where you're allowed to leave during the time of year when the weather is warm, you're stuck inside this ghastly place for the rest of your life. That is, if you don't end up being murdered by a mousy co-worker or get fired for staring lustfully at Molly Ringwald's legs for a longer than normal period of time; which, according to the guidelines that dictate office behaviour, can be no longer than two seconds. Two seconds?!? You can't possibly expect the bank where I keep the majority of my spank-related images to be able to work with just lousy two seconds worth of visual stimuli? It's an erection nonstarter. Besides, when you say, "staring lustfully at Molly Ringwald's legs," you're speaking metaphorically, right? Right? Hello? I'm sorry, I was just thinking about the question. No, it's not a metaphor. The film is Office Killer, and it's the place for fans of mid-90s Molly Ringwald to get their sultry redheaded kicks.
If you have always wanted to see a film where Carol Kane, Molly Ringwald, and Jeanne Tripplehorn act nasty to one another in an office environment (and who hasn't?), Office Killer is definitely the movie for you. Well, truth be told, I think Molly Ringwald provides most of the cattiness. And I would say that Jeanne Tripplehorn is mostly responsible for giving the project the clothes-adjusting awkwardness it desperately needs. What about Carol Kane? She does the shy murderess who's trying to figure out e-mail thing. Either way, they all end up bringing some much needed camp to the table. 
Oh, and if you're wondering what "clothes-adjusting awkwardness" is, it's those subtle moments in the film when Jeanne Tripplehorn tries to adjust the fit of her ill-fitting office attire.
Holy crap! I can't believe I just mentioned the word "camp" without it being adjacent to Barbara Sukowa, who plays Virginia Wingate, a.k.a. "The Nicotine Queen," a.k.a. "The Asthmatic Bitch," the editor-in-chief of Constant Consumer magazine. While sitting in her office, Virginia, who is being annoyed by Nora (Jeanne Tripplehorn), gives us our first taste of camp when she opens her mouth and begins to laugh. I know, that doesn't sound very campy. But you should have seen her. No-one laughs while holding a cigarette like Barbara Sukowa does. It also helps that she has long, black fingernails, likes to wear leather blazers, and is covered with about ten pounds worth of gaudy gold jewelry.
The office is thrown into chaos when a serial killer starts to...Just kidding, downsizing is the first thing to strike fear into the hearts of the employees of Constant Consumer, and it's Nora's job to hand out the letters telling certain workers that their hours have been reduced. You know the letter is going to be trouble just by looking at the way it starts: "Dear Colleague." To make matters worse, a new computer system is being introduced to the office, which is being installed by Daniel Birch (Michael Imperioli), a computer expert; when I think of computer experts, I think of Michael Imperioli. Am I implying that an Italian-American can't be a computer expert? No, I'm implying that Michael Imperioli can't be one. In other words, I didn't buy him for a second as the office's resident Steve Wozniak.
Eww, see what you what you made me do? I just name-dropped Steve Wozniak. How pedestrian. Quick, start typing words about Molly Ringwald's first scene. Like I said, Molly Ringwald brings some much needed cattiness to the proceedings, and displays this cattiness right from the get-go by mocking Jeanne Tripplehorn's pink, two-sizes too big suit. To be fair, though, Jeanne Tripplehorn does make fun of Molly Ringwald's eye shadow first. Nonetheless, Molly's insult was totally justified (she's right, her suit is awful), while Jeanne's dig was way out of bounds (Molly's eye makeup is sublimely applied).
You can't really see what Molly Ringwald's Kim Poole is wearing in her opening scene. But later on you can definitely see that that she has on this sparkly silver-grey number. Sprawled out in a leg-friendly manner on a desk as Jeanne Tripplehorn and Michael Imperioli played with the office's new laptops, Molly Ringwald establishes early on that she and her many saucy headbands mean business. 
After accidentally electrocuting her sleazy boss, Gary Michaels (David Thornton - Mr. Cyndi Lauper), office drone Doreen Douglas (Carol Kane), who, unlike Kim Poole, needs a few pointers about proper makeup application, decides to take him home with her instead of calling the police. Don't worry, that's not a spoiler, it's obvious that Doreen is the "office killer." Unfortunately, Kim Poole is the only one in the office who suspects there's something not right about this Doreen person. And while everyone loves to watch Kim strut around the office in her short skirts and black pantyhose, she's not exactly the most trustworthy (she's an ambitious go-getter who tells it like it is). This lack of trust causes a bit of a problem when Kim Poole tries to sound the alarm.
Besides, who's gonna buy that a waifish woman with irregular eyebrows, one who takes care of her disabled mother (Alice Drummond), is the one bumping off employees? To add insult to injury, Jeanne Tripplehorn and her frighteningly imprecise bangs befriends Doreen. Which makes Molly Ringwald come off as a bully. When, in truth, she's the film's plucky heroine.
My favourite Molly Ringwald outfit is the grey skirt/black pantyhose/white pumps/tropical-themed top ensemble she wears during the bulk of the film's meaty middle section.
The runner-up being her post-I just got fired look. For someone who was recently fired, and, on top of that, nearly strangled to death in a dark stairwell, Kim Poole is looking pretty stylish, and, dare I say, relaxed, lounging in her skimpy, purple and blue paint splatter dress.
While I admire Molly Ringwald's attempt re-invent herself as an actress by playing the office skank in a slasher film directed by famed photographer Cindy Sherman, it's the underrated Carol Kane who steals the show with her demented portrayal of an undervalued employee who keeps dead girl scouts in her basement.
When they show that Doreen had in fact murdered the girl scouts who came to her door to sell cookies, I let out a "yes!" Not because I was glad they were dead. On the contrary, I think all little girls deserve to grow up to live long and productive lives. But because the film had the guts to "go there."
Now, of course, some might say it's easier to play demented as supposed to skanky (Molly Ringwald), or even bang-heavy (Jeanne Tripplehorn), but I thought Carol Kane did an excellent job balancing her character's demented side with her more mousy tendencies.
Expertly photographed–and it should be given the level of the talent behind camera (including Todd Haynes)–Office Killer, while lacking the gore most horror fans crave, should be celebrated. Why? How often do you come across a film that star Carol Kane, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and a mid-90s era Molly Ringwald? That's right, not very often. So, yeah, the film should be celebrated. Just don't go into it thinking it's going to be a splatter-fest. The only splatter you'll find in this movie, is the paint on my second favourite Molly Ringwald outfit. If you're a horror fan who prefers camp to gore, and fashion to spine-tingling thrills, check this flick out immediately.


  1. Dear god in heaven.....

  2. Lounge on that desk, you sexy minx.

  3. The headband ties the whole outfit together. Making this white hot.

    Most women today seem to ignore the extraordinary power of the headband, as well as other tastefully placed hair ornaments. Forget the current trend of over-teased hair, perms, weaves, and all the lame exaggerated fluffy currently passing as "made up". A stylish headband, carefully placed bow, or artful hairpin in healthy natural hair is more than enough to send shivers down the spines of discerning onlookers.

  4. I have a big head--no, I'm not being an egomaniac--so most headbands feel like a vice on my skull.

    Yummers, I thought you have reviewed some Bigas Lunas flicks before, or maybe his name just came up in conversation. Anyway, I just found out he has died. :(

  5. Ido: Ignore the extraordinary power of the headband at your own peril.

    Oh, and Hail Sheetar!!!!!

    Oz: I think I got the gist of what you're saying. :)

    KA: It sounds like the fashion industry needs to start producing headbands for non-egotistical people with big heads.

    Jeez, another one. :( Anyway, yes, I reviewed Bigas Luna's Anguish, the only [I think] horror film he directed.

  6. @yum-yum: The greatest display of the extraordinary power of the headband is definitely Bergman's "Persona" (1966). I started writing this whole complex thing. But instead, here are some stills from the film of Liv Ullmann.


    And I had forgotten all about ol' Sheetar! Hail Sheetar, Destroyer of Thousand Worlds!

    @Karim Amir: They don't make reasonably sized Liv Ullmann headbands anymore? That's very sad.