Office Killer (1997)
By: Julian on July 3, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Palace Films (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1:78:1 (16:9 ehanced). English DD 2.0. 80 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Cindy Sherman
Starring: Carol Kane, Molly Ringwald, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Barbara Sukowa, Michael Imperioli
Screenplay: Tom Kalin, Elise MacAdam
Country: USA
External Links
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When a horror-comedy is made on a low budget with TV actors and has some style, but the horror element falls flat making the picture resemble more of a 'laughable horror' than a scary flick you can laugh with, the product is often called 'a quirky cult horror movie'.

Office Killer is a 'quirky cult horror movie'.

Despite being marketed as a horror-comedy, and despite the San Francisco Examiner's assertion that fashion designer Cindy Sherman's debut is 'chilling and hysterical' on the cover slick, there's nothing mildly scary or hysterically funny about this picture. But that's not through lack of trying, and while Office Killer is certainly well intentioned, it comes off as a sub-par imitation of dozens of superior films of its ilk.

Our unlikely protagonist is Dorine (Carol Kane), an awkward blend of social outcast and outright retard, who still works for her dead father's magazine after well over a decade and lives with her invalid mother in a ramshackle suburban house populated by cats. Despite Dorine's professional longevity, she's disrespected wholesale in the office, with the isolated exceptions of a grizzled old-timer and the well-meaning Norah (Jeanne Tripplehorn), who holds a managerial position. Predictably, when the head honchos decide some corporate downsizing is in order, Dorine is the first to get her letter of redundancy and it threatens to shatter her peaceful, albeit antisocial, existence.

One evening, Dorine finds herself holed in the office labouring over a new computer program with a co-worker and accidentally electrocutes him as he repairs the machine. Instead of calling 911, Dorine begins to tell her dead colleague just how she's misrepresented in the workplace – before promptly hauling him out to her car and taking him back home, setting up a nice comfy abode for the cadaver in the basement. The death of the colleague at Dorine's hands gives her a sense of empowerment and, before long, she's rampaging through the workplace and stowing the rapidly decomposing corpses under her house.

Office Killer isn't a particularly good film for a number of reasons. Characteristic to many 'quirky cult horror movies', the acting is fairly wooden by the entire ensemble with the exception of Michael Imperioli, here in one of his better pre-Sopranos supporting turns. The thing that's really questionable though is the plausibility of it all, and the screenwriters must take primary responsibility for this. Director Sherman is given a story credit and two virtual unknowns in the industry – Tom Kalin and Elise MacAdam – are responsible for the tenuous script. The main issue is Dorine's metamorphosis from meek clerk to a raging loon, exemplified when, unsatisfied with killing her workmates who do her wrong (in a revenge movie, this is perfectly morally acceptable), she offs a pair of eight or nine year old Girl Guides trying to sell her cookies. It just doesn't ring true, not even for a 'quirky cult horror movie', and the picture suffers for it. Killing kids isn't funny. It doesn't help you sympathise with a character. Because when it comes down to a pair of Girl Guides selling cookies, or a haggard old bat who needs to lock into some serious Haldol, there's just no contest. You want the bitch to pay for murdering those children, and when the viewer wants the protagonist dead, there's the raison d'être of the entire thing gone. Dorine is developed unevenly and the part is acted with minimal conviction, resulting in a character that could be described only as cretinous and unsympathetic.

There are also a series of mundane flashbacks that attempt to offer insight into Dorine's brooding psychoses where it is implied that her father, painted as a sneering, ghoulish caricature by Kalin and MacAdam, was an adulterer and a child molester. It does little to add to the narrative that, in spite of its taut running time, is frequently bogged down in inanity.

Office Killer is watchable enough if you like 'quirky cult horror movies'. It's neither funny nor grisly enough to make the grade for either requisite in the horror-comedy genre, though Sherman's direction can be engrossing. The costume designer stages a few very good set pieces, but her picture is marred by a ludicrous ending and a solidly incompetent script. Strangely, Sherman's career in the film industry just died, despite working within the loose realms of a genre that put the names of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson in lights.

Taking a sickie from this workplace should leave most viewers guilt-free.
Video
The picture has been presented in a 1:78:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement and is grain and speckle free.
Audio
One English 2.0 Dolby track. Standard. Dialogue and action are both clear and balanced.
Extra Features
Weak. Filmographies of Kane, Ringwald and Tripplehorn, and theatrical trailers for other Palace releases.
The Verdict
Not terribly good. Certainly not appalling, but this reviewer won't be revisiting Office Killer when there are dozens of other horror films – serious, comic, 'quirky' or otherwise – that are superior to this one. There are a few saving graces that make this picture worthy of a look for completists, otherwise skip it.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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