Opening in stark black and white on the prison captured portrait of a man drawing on a cigarette. A whine emanates off the soundtrack – familiar to those of us who’ve heard the legendary Murder seven inch singles – and as the camera begins to move around him in a slow arc, Ed Kemper’s chillingly lucid account of his crimes joins the disquieting drone on the soundtrack. The figure on screen, killing only time in a prison cell, stares away into nothing as the camera pulls in tight on his face, and Kemper’s voice breaks down into sobs. The screen then bleeds into saturated red and the verbally punishing rap of the Gheto Boys, eulogising on the messy fineries of rape and murder, burns into your ears like the muzzle blast of an Uzi going off around your head.
And so begins Aryan Kaganof’s 1994 film meditation on murder, which – as one might expect from this provocative filmmaker – impresses into its subject matter to a depth that draws blood. Utilising an eclectic range of both fact and fiction, Kaganof has removed his verbal and literary source material from its original context and married it, within the respective vignettes, to images that are wholly his own, compositing a fracture line on the facets of his film’s themes: Ted Bundy, trapped in his last corner, spills the blame of his desires on pornography, while Kaganof – the trooper that he is – can be seen masturbating as images of a pretty blonde girl, bound and gagged, are projected onto his torso; Kenneth Bianchi, arrogant and flaunting no feelings of remorse, casually picks his way through police murder files admitting to their content. Extracts from Henry Rollins’ diary are used in a sequence expressing isolation that chills with its narrator’s outsider stare; J.G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition and Crash are used in sequences that neatly evoke the emotional duality of the serial killer in society – murder and the desire to murder is unending and it’s frisson is something that attracts the curiosities of more than just killers.
Certainly, this is at times a demanding film to watch – as are the majority of Kaganof’s – with the pace moving from extremely fluid to near static through its stylistically eventful course. It is surprising, though, that considering its nature, autopical imagery is near to none existent, overwhelmed by sexual imagery – the emotional heart of this film – and its relation to the broken individual.