The Kill-Off is a rigorous, well-acted adaptation of a hardboiled novel by Jim Thompson, with an unrelentingly grim view of human nature.
Loretta Gross gives a strong performance as Luane DeVore, an acid-tongued gossipmonger hated by almost everyone in her little community. She feigns a bedridden, feeble condition so that her husband (Steve Monroe), 20 years her junior, will take care of her hand and foot.
Things come to a head when folks decide to get rid of her, including Monroe, a slow-witted fellow whose new girlfriend (Cathy Haase) plots against his wife. Gross’ death is followed by some bitter confrontations and a nihilistic finish.
Ensemble acting brings out the bitterness and hopelessness of a ragtag group of trapped characters. It’s not a pretty picture, but helmer Maggie Greenwald keeps tight control of mood and tone.