By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 28, 2007
So much notoriety fogs the drama of Lindsay Lohan's life these days that it's probably easier to review that than her actual movie. But, surprise, the not-screened-in-advance-for-press "I Know Who Killed Me" is a credible piece of pop entertainment of the hottie-in-distress genre.
The genre is no favorite of critics or responsible adults, who have no desire to observe its conventions -- lots of pain, torture and bondage suffered by said hottie, followed by righteously administered way-cool death to perpetrator -- but if you accept those conventions, "I Know" delivers on them in a trim, if violent, package and gives Lohan a chance to show she knows a little something about the acting trade.
One can certainly see why she accepted such a project, even at the hands of a first-time writer (Jeff Hammond) and an undistinguished director (Chris Sivertson). She gets to play that coveted stretch-job, the double role, first as good-girl perfect teen Aubrey Fleming and then as stripper-survivor-street girl Dakota Moss. What connects them?
Aubrey, ruling princess of an ideal but geographically vague suburb, is abducted one day by the reigning serial killer, who steals beauties such as her, mutilates them horribly, then deposits their bodies on public byways. However, somehow, though mutilated in the exact same way as previous victims, she escapes, is found, hospitalized, interviewed by the FBI, visited by her boyfriend, supplied with miracle prostheses to make up for what is now missing, and returned to prosperous parents (Neal McDonough and Julia Ormond). Except now she claims to be the stripper and wild girl of the road, Dakota.
As Dakota, she swears, smokes, indulges in recreational sex and treats her parents like servants, while laughing contemptuously at the feds. The diagnosis, by the obligatory shrink, is that Aubrey's been traumatized into delusion, that she's entered a fictional world she created as a would-be writer of the Stephen King variety.
The thrust of the picture follows as tough-talking tart Dakota jokes her way through Aubrey's life and begins to wonder where she ends and Aubrey begins, or vice versa, and ultimately figures that if she's really Dakota, then Aubrey is still missing.
Director Sivertson has lots of fun with cinematography, particularly with a kind of iridescent blue, used throughout as a symbol of the mad streak at the center of the picture. The movie's primary drawback, for sensitive audiences, will be exactly what endears it to less sensitive audiences: its gore, which is endless. It loves the image of the amputee, it loves the act of amputation. It does nasty things to hands and legs, it buries people alive, it goes to the morgue and lets us look at morgue photos. Many will say ugh, and mean it. Also, it seems to take place in a universe in which cellphones have not yet been invented.
But Lohan brilliantly brings off her double turn and clearly believes in the picture, as do all who worked on it. These things used to be called B movies in the old days when nobody noticed them but critics writing 20 years later, and that's probably the fate that lies in store for "I Know Who Killed Me." It's negligible, to be sure, but these days, hey, what isn't?
I Know Who Killed Me (105 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for grisly violence including torture and disturbing gory images, sexuality, nudity and profanity.