Is there a more perfect shooting format for grimy horror than 16mm? Yes, there is, Super 8, and Ramin Fahrenheit’s debut, Killer Queen, takes full advantage of this grungy, grainy style, delivering a glorious grindhouse throwback that’s aesthetically on point but just barely misses the mark narratively. Fahrenheit takes on the role of director, writer, actor, cinematographer and producer in this film, which involves a disturbed young woman who escapes a psychiatric institution and is desperately attempting to keep her inner demons at bay.
Fatima Maziani plays the unnamed woman who is plagued with delusions and homicidal thoughts and is barely able to function as she trudges throughout her day to day life, going to matinees and sewing her wig into her scalp. She meets with her closest friend and confidant, Ida, who reluctantly gives her the info for a drug dealer so that she can attempt a self-medication routine to keep the voices at bay.
Fahrenheit opts for a non-linear approach to the storytelling, presenting things out of order and in a scrambled-up manner, much like the woman’s fragile mind, harshly jumping through time as we slowly piece together a timeline of tragic events. While this method lends itself to a more rewarding experience, the plot often dips into these shallow valleys where nothing is really happening and where things start to feel a bit dull.
After sparking up a relationship with the drug dealer, the substances our lead partakes in seem to only cause more problems for our hapless protagonist until she finally gives into her carnal desires and begins taking lives left and right.
Maziani does a good job in the role, but the character is sadly underdeveloped, despite clearly showing dimension. I yearned for a deeper understanding of who this person was and how she came to find herself in this moment, but aside from what appears to be hints at past trauma and an odd sequence involving butterflies, there’s just not that much there.
The visuals look like they are straight out of some lost, grime-filled murder story from Abel Ferrara, and another aspect that accentuates the tone of Killer Queen is the sound, both the score and editing. Whenever you have one of these movies that’s attempting to capture the style of these ’70s and ’80s exploitation films, a dead giveaway of its contemporary conception is the sound editing and mixing, and thankfully Fahrenheit completely nails this.
I mean, it’s bad, with dubbed dialogue and over-exaggerated sound effects, but in this case, that’s a good thing. It’s one of the few new movies that one could easily mistake for a film released decades prior, minus a sparse number of tells. Norman Orenstein’s synth-heavy score is also a welcome addition, harkening back to Goblin or John Carpenter, giving the film another heavy dose of style to go along with the impressive sound and visuals.
Narratively speaking, there isn’t much going on in Killer Queen for me to latch on to, and the story left me a bit wanting. For a directorial debut, however, this is an immensely impressive effort and I’m anxious to see where Ramin Fahrenheit goes from here, hopefully remaining within this style.