After being attacked and raped, multiple times, and her husband murdered and cannibalized, Sadie vows revenge against a gang known as The Touchers. However, Sadie's plans change when she learns about the mystical powers her vagina holds — soon she will not only have her revenge against the gang that destroyed her life, but against all men.
While Ron Bonk is known as the head honcho over at Sub Rosa/SRS Cinema (whatever company title you’re familiar with) my first introduction to him was with his directorial effort, “Strawberry Estates”. A found-footage movie that was less than stellar, to put it nicely. I never paid attention to his production work after that, but rather on what he released. Cut to sometime last year — the SOV anthology flick, “HI-8”, featured a segment from Ron Bonk (“Gang Them Style”) and it became one of my favorites because I liked the way the production aspect was handled, but most importantly, the comedy hit the mark perfectly. It was enough to generate interest in “She Kills” and look past its genre homage stylings.
Unquestionably, the thing that had me the least excited about “She Kills” is the fact that it is one of those “gindhouse throwbacks”. A trend that started out as enjoyable-to-tolerable but was quickly driven into the ground and made unbearable. Although truth be told, I’d take a grindhouse homage over this current god awful trend of self-aware ‘80s nostalgia, but I guess that’s neither here nor there.
To Ron’s credit, he did what most other filmmakers fail to do when making a homage or a throwback movie and that is to elevate the material beyond that aspect — use the references as a frame work and then build off of that. It’s what made other recent titles, such as “Junk Bonds: The Return of Junk Bucket” and “All Hell Breaks Loose” successful, and now, “She Kills” as well. To be more specific, “She Kills” uses the structure of an exploitation movie — everything from characterization and plot points, down to pacing and cinematography — but uses that to tell an absurd, comical story of revenge.
To no surprise, what will divide audiences on “She Kills” is the comedy itself. It almost feels unnecessary to comment on the humor of the movie since I know what I didn’t like, and what brought the movie down for me, are going to be the things that someone else absolutely loves. And “She Kills” has some of the well timed humor of “Gang Them Style” that I enjoyed but there’s a reliance on going after low-hanging fruit within “She Kills”— the jokes we’ve seen dozens and dozens of times.
An example: To show how evil and dangerous Dirk (the leader of the gang) is, they have him rip a cold sore off of Beatrice’s (female gang member) face and eat it (then it calls back to that gag by having Dirk carry around a bag of cold sores). It’s essentially exposition through humor while simultaneously poking fun of the cinematic trope of showing how bad an antagonist character is by having them do something that’s vile (usually to one of their own henchmen). You take a joke like that and compare it to a painfully obvious one, like having a kung-fu battle between characters with bad dubbing. It’s an unfortunate shift from clever to obvious. Granted, Ron tries to make that particular (tiresome) setup a little more bearable by making it over-the-top and have the two men fighting turn pets into weapons — a dog is ripped in half to become nunchucks and a cat into a bo staff (or maybe it was a sword). Regardless, you’re still left with a scene where the only joke is reminding audiences how these kung-fu cult movies had bad dubbing. A joke that’s been made by everyone.
Sure, any movie that deals in comedy have a mix of jokes that work and ones that don’t. It becomes more of a problem in “She Kills” because it doesn’t maintain a more even level of consistency. Rather, it plays out more in spikes — it’s hitting either high or low points. However, in my opinion, the worst comedic offense “She Kills” commits is drawing everything out. I understand that the long, drawn out joke works on a satirical level because exploitation films would often have extended scenes for the sake of padding the runtime. And these were not fast paced films either. Still, the drawn out joke is about taking something so far that it no longer becomes funny, thus, turning the joke into being about how long said joke lasts. Not a bad setup in itself but it has to be used sporadically and should fit within a certain context. When Dirk’s gang attacks and rapes Sadie, that’s a perfect place to use that because it could be used as a riff on a movie like “I Spit on Your Grave” and its extended rape sequence. In “She Kills”, every confrontation where Sadie is extracting her revenge, the scenes are drawn out. It becomes tiresome because of how often it falls on this shtick, but even worse, it makes the movie itself feel like it takes longer to watch than it actually does. I’ll admit, there was a bit of clock watching on my part.
Again though, I understand that the next viewer will love the extended bits because it had them in hysterics. Comedy is a fickle beast, after all. For me though, it goes beyond having a joke that falls flat. The humor that doesn’t work starts to effect the movie in other ways — i.e., having the movie feel longer than it actually is. The upside is that it doesn’t completely ruin the movie because, overall, it was a solid flick. Regardless of how I feel about the comedy. What separates “She Kills” from most throwbacks and homages is that Ron Bonk understands what an exploitation movie is and how they work. What it is about them that continues to draw in fans. You can pull back the layers of “She Kills” and find solidity in the film’s structure: The first layer, you have a competent, functioning rape-revenge movie. The second layer adds a satirical form of comedy that ribs at those films. The final layer is over-the-top absurdity that gives Ron’s film its own identity. As I said, it elevates the material beyond being just another homage.
Of course whether or not a person will appreciate what “She Kills” ascends to will be dependent on whether or not they enjoy a film where people turn into apes because of feminine odors, a Satanical charged vagina, all sorts of genital mutilations, and death by dookie…C’mon, let’s not kid ourselves. You knew there was going to be a poop joke in this movie somewhere.
Not to beat this point into the ground, but again, the only actual problem I had with “She Kills” was the comedy. And even then, only some of the jokes. And there were also a few moments where the movie does take things a bit too far and veers off into stupidity rather than clever absurdity. In general, “She Kills” is a great satirical take on exploitation films while showing admiration for them as well. Ron Bonk’s film is able to get away with so much, in terms of humor, because its roots are planted firmly within its genre that grounds the movie and allows for the juxtaposition to work. Between that and the attention that’s given to the production side — “She Kills” is a great looking movie — I would actually recommend this movie to most people. Certainly it’s not going to be for everyone but I think Ron’s film will hit the right spot (especially with where comedy is at currently) with its intended audience.