Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dressed to Kill

Year: 1980
Director: Brian De Palma
Writer: Brian De Palma
Genre: Thriller, Slasher

In a weird way I both highly enjoyed this movie and felt let down by it. No, I didn't go into Dressed to Kill with high expectations or any at all. I watched a few seconds of the trailer before feeling that it would reveal too much so I closed it. This was probably for the best, although I have a sneaking suspicion that the trailer wouldn't have actually revealed much of the content either.

It's kind of hard to write about the film without spoiling a major plot point as well, although I figure that probably most people were long since aware of it. I'm just really out of the circle of De Palma. As such, I'm going to discuss everything.

For the introductory part of the film we're set with our keen eyes on a seductress who is also a mother. She seems to navigate both these planes rather well, although her personal marriage suffers. She speaks to her therapist about such things before going off on another man hunt. Unfortunately for her, after her rendezvous she is killed by a woman in an elevator. It's not immediately at the start of the film and pulls the rug out from right under you. If you were ever surprised by the switch in Psycho, that's how I felt here.

It was all going very well too until the manner of the killer came to the table. The killer was a "transsexual" to use the terminology of the film. I say it this way because the term has mostly gone out of vogue to describe such conditions of body dysphoria. Either way, the transwoman character, Bobbi, is fingered as the one who committed the murder. As it goes on you do find this to be true.

At first I thought that it was going to be some sort of flip flop situation where the trans patient was actually the hero of the story. No such luck. However, there was still an interesting twist tot he matter which was that Bobbi was actually the alternate personality of the therapist himself. Or rather, whenever his masculine self was brought forth, Bobbi would come out to shove it back away. That was interesting enough but it didn't matter because it still disappointed me.

I'm tired of seeing movies where the killer is trans. While I think this was a bit more intersting use of the whole thing, it still reeked of the idea that transpeople are so mentally unstable that they just become psychotic killers. Of course, this is no more true of this segment of the population than anyone else out there. I'm sure a more clever killer could have been devised, and this was at least an attempt at something different. I also enjoyed that near the end the characters discuss some trans facts without getting all grossed out. Although, it was a shame to see that they still assumed that every person with this condition must undergo surgeries to feel complete. But this was the 80s so I'll cut them all some slack.

As a film, it was wholly watchable and captivating. I was a little disappointed overall with the murderer but really if you can get past that then this seems like another De Palma classic.

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