Aponderous neo-noir, “Pure Killjoy” is marred by a thoroughly disorganized narrative and a miserable protagonist. Theatrical, video or cable distribution is a long shot for this occasionally kinky, atmospheric pic.
Writer-director Scott P. Downing’s debut effort takes place in a “near-future” L.A. where the lonely Fred Derf (Gregg Rubin), an aspiring writer and standup comedian, wallows in his misery after being dumped by his sweetheart. Fred walks the neon streets all night, frequenting bars and being seduced by women.
Meanwhile, a serial killer is terrorizing the city, and Fred sees visions of death and brutality when he sleeps. Could he be the killer?
Pic aims to be a cerebral psychological thriller, but because Downing randomly intertwines the surreal with the real, result is confusing and frustrating rather than spooky or deeply thoughtful.
The mystery concerning Fred’s culpability is not especially compelling; the weird, poorly developed character is constantly masturbating, thinking evil thoughts and attempting to kill himself. By the time Downing reveals what’s really going on with Fred, it’s hard to care.
Pic takes place entirely at night, on seedy streets and in smoky bars. Cinematography and production design are quite apt at conjuring up a solid noir ambience, but Fred’s weird ways and the unstructured script create an emotional remove from the drama and the mood.