×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Karla

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.

With:
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.

Karla

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

  • I Lost My Body

    Netflix Pickup ‘I Lost My Body,’ ‘Buñuel,’ ‘Away’ Top Annecy Festival

    ANNECY, France  — Fulfilling expectations, Jeremy Clapin’s “I Lost My Body, the subject of one of the highest-profile Netflix deals at this year’s Cannes, won this Saturday the Annecy Festival’s top Cristal Award of best feature plus, in a relatively rare Annecy double whammy, the festival’s Audience Award. The first was expected, the second a [...]

  • 'Fausto' Review: Andrea Bussmann's Beautuful, Inscrutable

    Locarno in Los Angeles Film Review: 'Fausto'

    In more ways than one, “Fausto” is a film that likes to keep its audience in the dark: The bulk of its imagery is thickly cloaked in velvety night, often barely illuminated but for pinpricks of moonlight or a flickering candle, sometimes to the point where viewers must strain and squint to identify what they’re [...]

  • Toy Story 4

    The 15 Best Films of 2019 (So Far)

    By now, audiences have caught on to the way American distributors tend to stockpile their quality movies for end-of-year award-season release, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t treasures to be found in the first two quarters. In fact, sometimes it’s the movies that aren’t making a self-important Oscar push that wind up hitting closest to [...]

  • Chris Hemsworth (H) with Em (Tessa

    'Men In Black: International' Taking in $26 Million Amid Franchise Fatigue

    North American moviegoers spurned sequels this weekend with Sony’s “Men in Black: International” heading for a modest $26 million debut while “Shaft” will finish with a dismal $7.3 million in seventh place. “Men in Black: International,” the fourth iteration of the sci-fi comedy franchise, is performing under expectations, which had been in the $30 million [...]

  • Night scenery of the Bund in

    Shanghai Festival Defies Gloom to Open on Upbeat Note

    The Chinese film industry may not yet have emerged from a “cold winter” production freeze, nor its box office kept pace with 2018. But but those inclement elements did not put a chill on the pageantry at the Shanghai International Film Festival. The opening ceremony for the festival’s 22nd edition went ahead Saturday with the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content