The object of a current firestorm of controversy in Canada, "Karla" will soon be forgotten everywhere else, footnoted in the annals of psycho-killer movies as a creepy but botched work.

Karla Homolka - Laura Prepon Paul Bernardo - Misha Collins Molly - Tess Harper Dr. Arndt - Patrick Bauchau

The object of a current firestorm of controversy in Canada, “Karla” will soon be forgotten everywhere else, footnoted in the annals of psycho-killer movies as a creepy but botched work. While it attempts to adhere to the true-life, sensational Canadian murder case involving Karla Homolka and her husband Paul Bernardo, pic positions Karla as manipulated by Paul while failing to give equal consideration to her possible role as a co-mastermind. Canuck protests against the film on these grounds appear well founded, but have nonetheless served to boost Canadian B.O. since pic’s Jan. 20 bow and its future Yank theatrical prospects.

“Karla” has the rough, low-grade look of an early Roger Corman film, giving the tantalizing hope of an entertaining trash-a-thon. But that never emerges.

Script by Michael D. Sellers, Manette Beth Rosen and director Joel Bender adopts the hokey framework of incarcerated Karla (Laura Prepon) being interviewed by court-appointed Dr. Arndt (Patrick Bauchau) to determine if she’s eligible for parole. It’s Karla’s story, in essence, and although she may be the most unreliable of narrators, neither the script nor the alluring, likable Prepon encourages aud skepticism.

Such a stance places pic in a morally precarious position, as Karla tells of her seduction of handsome beau Paul (Misha Collins), with her sexually aggressive behavior that somehow slipped into nasty sex games led by Paul, involving Karla’s younger sis Tammy (Cherilyn Hayres), with whom Paul is obsessed.

Karla’s eventual murder conviction was based on Paul’s videotaping of a session in which Tammy was poisoned by Karla; druggy action here indicates a grayer area, however, in which Tammy’s death could have been accidental.

The downhill spiral into a nasty co-dependency — Paul’s hunger for raping and killing young women nurtured by Karla’s subservience and willingness to let him do whatever he wants, including repeatedly slugging her in the face — is much less enlightening and involving than it should be.

There’s a certain darkly suffocating quality to the chamber drama played out by these two sick souls, but the fact that the film is more willing to explicitly show Paul’s constant beatings of Karla than the worst aspects of the killings underlines who is to be seen as the victim here.

Yet, if there’s a dramatic case to be made for Karla not being partly responsible for the grisly crimes, the film never makes it, and a closing credit text stating evidence and testimony of Karla’s involvement and lack of remorse comes off as a particularly weak last-minute gambit to provide a balanced telling of the saga.

Prepon’s performance is, perhaps understandably, both extremely brave and notably confused: It’s rare for a thesp coming off a popular tube series (“That ’70s Show”) to play such an unremittingly dark character. But Prepon also seems not to know where to take her role after some early touches of bad-girl dramatics. Collins is more assured as a handsome beast, a dime-store version of Ted Bundy.

Bender’s direction is choppy and lacks style, while pic’s generally washed-out look tends to work against the creepy content rather than support it.

In a reverse of norms, production of the Canadian story was lensed entirely in Los Angeles with a largely Yank crew.

Popular on Variety


Production: A Christal Films release (in Canada) of a Moviebank and Quantum Entertainment presentation in association with MB Partners and Goldmill Prods. of a Michael Sellers production. Produced by Sellers, Marlon Parry. Executive producers, Pamela Vlastas, Manette Beth Rosen, Robert Keskemety, Don Barton. Co-executive producers, Rick Goulding, Stuart Miller. Directed by Joel Bender. Screenplay, Michael D. Sellers, Manette Beth Rosen, Bender.

Crew: Camera (FotoKem color), Charles Mills; editors, Sellers, Bender; music, Tim Jones; production designer, Freddy Naff; art director, Clark Gillie; set decorator, Natalie Brun; costume designer, Tom Bronson; makeup, Tanja Hrast; sound (Dolby Digital), Josh Steinberg; sound designer, Jeremy Hoenack; stunt coordinators, George Colucci Jr., Dennis Madalone; assistant director, Lynnette Myers; casting, Patricia Rose. Reviewed at Santa Barbara Film Festival, Feb. 8, 2006. Running time: 102 MIN.

With: Karla Homolka - Laura Prepon Paul Bernardo - Misha Collins Molly - Tess Harper Dr. Arndt - Patrick BauchauWith: Leonard Kelly-Young, Alex Boyd, Cherilyn Hayres, Kristen Swieconek, Sarah Foret.

More Film

  • Thom Zimny, Bruce Springsteen and Martin

    Bruce Springsteen's Director, Thom Zimny, on the Move from 'Broadway' to 'Western Stars'

    Director Thom Zimny is due for a big September: Come Sept. 22, he’ll find out whether he’s winning an Emmy Award for directing “Springsteen on Broadway” for Netflix. Ten days before that, he’ll be at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival to premiere a theatrical feature, “Western Stars,” which he co-directed with his muse and subject, [...]

  • Angel Has Fallen

    Box Office: 'Angel Has Fallen' Flies to $1.5 Million on Thursday Night

    Action movie “Angel Has Fallen” has soared to $1.5 million at 2,600 North American locations in Thursday night previews. Christian drama “Overcomer” took in $775,000 during Thursday night previews at 1,563 locations. “Angel Has Fallen” has been tracking for a debut in the $12 million to $16 million range and will expand to 3,286 sites on [...]

  • Our Mothers Review

    Oscars: Belgium Sends Cannes Prizewinner 'Our Mothers' to International Feature Film Race

    Belgian-Guatemalan director Cesar Diaz’s feature debut, “Our Mothers,” will represent Belgium in the International Feature Film category at the Oscars. Represented in international markets by Pyramide, “Our Mothers” world premiered at Cannes’ Critics Week and won the Golden Camera for best first film. “Our Mothers” is set in today’s Guatemala, a country riveted by the [...]

  • La vaca "The Cow"

    Alfredo Castro, Mia Maestro, Leonor Varela Cast in Francisca Alegria’s Debut (EXCLUSIVE)

    SANTIAGO, Chile  —  The much anticipated feature debut of Chilean Francisca Alegria, renowned for her magical short “And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow’s Eye,” has firmed up its cast and shooting dates. Argentine thesp Mia Maestro (“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”), Chile’s Leonor Varela (“Dallas,” “Blade 2”), Alfredo Castro (“From Afar,” “Museum”) [...]

  • 210819 Distribusjonsseminar DNF

    Haugesund: Nordic Distribution Panel Analyzes Recent Success Story 'Queen of Hearts'

    HAUGESUND, Norway  —  On Wednesday morning, shortly before this year’s New Nordic Films Works in Progress screening was due to begin, a handful of industry veterans sat for a panel that picked up right where last year’s WIP program left off. Presented in collaboration with Europa Distribution, the panel – called “The Value Chain: A [...]

  • L-R Dena Kaplan, Ronny Chieng, Josh

    Rafe Spall Leads Cast of Oscar Nominated Josh Lawson's 'Long Story Short'

    Rafe Spall, whose credits include “The Big Short” and “Shaun of the Dead,” leads the cast of romantic comedy “Long Story Short.” Studiocanal will handle worldwide sales on the film, which starts to shoot on Monday in Sydney, Australia. The movie is written and directed by Josh Lawson, who was Oscar nominated last year for [...]

  • Metro 2033

    Cult Sci-Fi Novel 'Metro 2033' to Be Adapted as Movie (EXCLUSIVE)

    Russia’s TNT-Premier Studios Company, TV-3 Channel and Central Partnership Film Company – all part of Gazprom Media – have come together to produce a movie based on Dmitry Glukhovsky’s sci-fi novel “Metro 2033,” which has also been adapted as a video game. Filming is due to start next year. The Russian premiere of the movie [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content