Director: Miguel Marti
Cast: Macarena Gómez, César Camino, Alejo Sauras, Angel de Andrés, Nadia Casado, Carolina Bona
Watch Sexy Killer online in the UK: Shudder UK
Every other weekend, our resident horror obsessive Anton Bitel delves into Shudder’s selection of horrors to handpick a Friday night fright.
In a university locker room, as female undergraduates in various states of undress gossip maliciously about one another’s sex lives, a figure in mask and black robes watches and waits for his opportunity. With machete in hand, he finds each shower cubicle frustratingly empty, until he is confronted with his mirror image – and slashed in the arm by it. Bleeding, practical joker Santiago (David Tenreiro) flees, drops his fake blade and removes his mask – but when he sees medical student Bárbara Ruiz Mata (Macarena Gómez) heading into the changing room, he races after to warn her of the killer inside. Yet, as Santiago finds the second mask hanging in Bárbara’s locker, she cuts his throat with her own very real machete.
This prologue to Miguel Marti’s Sexy Killer (Sexykiller, morirás por ella) certainly sets the film’s tone and lays down the score. The setting in a ladies’ changing room, along with the way the camera positions the viewer as leering voyeur before all that female flesh on display, simply screams classic slasher – yet the familiar ‘Ghostface’ mask worn by fake and real killers alike points straight to Wes Craven’s Scream series, with its more knowingly postmodern approach to slasher tropes, and the playful score seems aimed more at ironising than frightening. Santiago’s inability to see Bárbara as the masked killer, even when the evidence is right before his eyes, is an apt introduction to a new kind of slasher who hides in plain sight, with her sex the real mask.
“You must be freaking out – thought this would be one of those horror films where the killer chases naked women,” says Bárbara, straight to camera, on her way to a horror-themed fancy dress party with weapons concealed on her person and Santiago’s severed head in her bag. “In this one, I’m the boss.” Indeed, not only is Sexy Killer subverting the gendered norms of its subgenre, but as perkily kickass Bárbara breaks both balls and the fourth wall in her murderous pursuit of true romance and perfect domesticity, we are seeing writ large all the treacherous contradictions in what is expected of the post-millennial woman, who must be strong yet tender, a Barbie (or ‘Sindy’) Doll yet a fighter, pure yet a ‘slut’, perfect looking yet resistant to the Other’s gaze, fiercely independent yet bound to the model of the nuclear family.
The film is structured as a life story, narrated by Bárbara to her latest victim, one of whose hands she has just nailed to the bonnet of his car, while breaking all the digits of the other. This captive audience hears first of her fairy-tale aspirations, planted in her at the age of eight, and then of her more recent career as the ‘Campus Killer’. She kills people of all ages and sexes for all manner of reasons – those who annoy or insult her, or fail to satisfy her sexually, or who just get in her way – and these flashbacks are presented in different narrative modes, sometimes as song and dance numbers, sometimes as television infotainment, sometimes as fashion magazine spreads, sometimes as news reports, and sometimes in parodies of everything from Taxi Driver (1976) to Night of the Living Dead (1968) to Titanic (1997) to Re-Animator (1985) to The Evil Dead (1981). If none of those sound like slashers, that is because the film is, in its generic form, as unstable as Bárbara herself. For it switches codes in much the same way as Bárbara changes dresses (sometimes within the one scene), and shifts from serial killer screwball comedy to zombie screwball massacre, while somehow remaining an improbable love story between Bárbara and nerdish med student/morgue worker Tomás (César Camino) – right to its bitter end (and perhaps beyond).
Though hit and miss, the film is often hilarious, with its biggest running joke also serving as a piece of social commentary. For while Bárbara makes little attempt to cover her crimes, and repeatedly tells others that she is, in fact, the killer, this goes unnoticed and falls on deaf ears. Nobody, it seems, can believe a woman capable of such murderous mayhem, leaving Bárbara endlessly overlooked and underestimated in the hunt for the perpetrator. So Sexy Killer is an equal opportunities film made for a world in which women are still, when it comes down to it, not regarded as equal, helping Bárbara get away not just scot-, but also Santiago-. Ángel- and Álex-free. The irony here is that no man is a match for Bárbara, not even the police inspector (Ángel de Andrés López), who has his own anger issues and capacity for opportunistic murder – and her one successful relationship (with Tomás) turns out to be predicated on a misunderstanding.
“I just want everything perfect,” Bárbara asks Tomás, “Is that a crime?” And on her quest for this impossible ideal in an imperfect world, the trail of bloody corpses that she leaves behind makes for the strangest, funniest Spanish campus slasher since Juan Piquer Simon’s Pieces (1982). It’s all held together by Gómez, who proves that unhinged and mercurial are the new sexy – and whose Bárbara, no matter what fresh outrage she is committing, never forgets to have fun.
Sexy Killer is available to stream online on Shudder UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, or £49.99 yearly membership.