Another deep dive into a micro-budget US indie; director and producer Willow Hamilton’s film is a deliberately odd-bird, a quirky who-dunnit set against the backdrop of Hollywood excess. This isn’t the only example of the form in this setting, The Last of Sheila comes to mind, but it’s a good way to get your first feature out; there’s opportunities for satire, as well as a tried and tested narrative structure that invites us to figure out the eternal conundrum- who is the killer?
In a neat conceit, a performance artist is killed at his own open house, bloodily murdered in his own bathtub, although we’re spared the gory details. One character describes the crime scene as ‘Elvis Presley meets the Red Wedding’ but who is responsible? Killer Whales is about the suspects, and the investigation; a film within a film, a Blair Witch for the Hollywood King’s Road set.
‘If you believe that money will just come to you, it does; that’s manifestation’; muses a Robert Evans-style producer; that’s one possible motive, but film-maker Donny Wunder (Wyatt Bunce) has an abundance of leads to follow as he attempts to create his true-crime documentary. Most of the suspects were working on a film called Killer Whales, and Wunder picks up the story one year later as he sifts through the evidence. This some fun ideas here, from rollerblading priests to a discussion on why the Jesus figure in Western culture is so ripped, and some smart lines; ‘I’m on a full raft of cognitive enhancers’ advances one dubious soul.
‘I do have a flair for theatrics’ is a revealing line here, and Hamilton and his friends clearly do too; Killer Whales does get a bit bogged down in some deliberately crazy and indulgent routines before rousing itself for a reasonably tight finale. There’s some withering wit here, and even if Killer Whales has a few of the flaws we expect from a debut, it’s a useful calling card for the considerable talent involved.
Killer Whales was released in the US on July 26, 2022.