During the last few decades, a movement has arisen calling itself “independent filmmaking” or “indie film” for short. Typically low budget productions, these films are purported by their advocates to be “real,” “honest,” “artistic” endeavors as opposed to those oh so commercial movies produced in Hollywood. These flicks are championed by such media outlets as the “Film Threat” website and all too many movie reviewers nationwide who have drunk the Kool-Aid dispensed by this alleged movement. A more objective look at indie film reveals a lucrative circuit of film festivals and “art house” theaters that exhibit what is oftentimes inferior cinema produced by poor little rich kids with big trust funds who like to think of themselves as being “artistic” filmmakers even though their endeavors are highly derivative of Hollywood creations.
Throughout history, Hollywood has loved to trash folks who live in the Appalachians and the Ozarks as being “white trash” and “hillbillies.” There have been numerous movies such as the Ma & Pa Kettle flicks that were devoted to portraying folks who live in rugged rural areas as being hopelessly backwards and pretty much illiterate. Even now, hill folk are one of the few groups of people that normally politically correct Hollywood feels few compunctions about denigrating. One example of the way that Hollywood treats folks in the rural mountain regions is 1986’s A Killing Affair. Of course, the genuises behind this movie would protest that they are “independent filmmakers,” not to be confused with Hollywood types, but as we shall see there really is not much different between the way that mountain folk are treated in most Hollywood productions and in A Killing Affair.
A Killing Affair is set in West Virginia during World War II. A man named Pink Gresham has been murdered and his wife (Kathy Baker) discovers his corpse hanging in the shed. She gets flustered and runs to a black neighbor for help in tracking down the murderer. The black matriarch comes out of her house holding a baby that has a distinctly lighter complexion than either the rest of her kids or her husband. She tells Mrs. Gresham to get lost. So, the newly widowed Mrs. Gresham gets lost and basically loses all interest in finding her husband’s killer to the point that she fails to report his death to the authorities. She does, however, in true Hollywood “hillbilly” fashion take a shot at a lone person at a significant distance away from her since Hollywood hill folk are always portrayed as being fearful of strangers and taking a shoot first, ask questions later attitude.
That night, two important things occur. First, the movie goes from being in color to black and white. This is repeated both the next night and also during a day time thunderstorm. This must have been due to budget constraints coupled with the apparent belief of the indie filmmakers that the audience would be too stupid to notice. And you thought that Hollywood had a low opinion of moviegoers!
The other important occurrence is that a desperate man (Peter Weller) breaks into her home and tells her that he murdered her husband. Contrary to human nature, she does not seem terribly afraid of him and actually seems attracted to the handsome stranger. He tells her that the reason why he did the grisly deed was that her husband had murdered his wife and kids the preceding Saturday. Of course, she takes him at his word. On top of that, she takes her clothes off and entices him to engage in bedroom perversion. Typical Hollywood portrayal of a “hillbilly” female who regularly goes to church and talks a storm about morals and values, but at first oppotunity is perfectly willing to engage in immoral acts with just about anybody, including the unrepentant murderer of her husband.
At this point the oh so artistic indie filmmakers throw in a plot twist from left field. The reverend of the church that the dead man and his family attend and the county sheriff show up at the house while the murderer hides. Since her conscientious worker of a husband has not shown up to work, they figure that something must be wrong. Right there, she has an opportunity to inform the authorities of the crime, but she says nothing and even claims that her husband is still alive. Unconvinced, the sheriff decides to call out a posse and in short order, the murderer is exposed and gunned down. In yet another plot twist from straight out of the thin blue sky, the widow, in response to questions about why she shielded her husband’s murderer, says that he had every right to kill her husband. When the reverend tells her that the killer was a liar since her husband was in his presence almost all day that Saturday and so could not have killed the wife and kids of the man who murdered him, she calls him a liar apparently on the grounds that if you can’t trust the man who murdered her husband, then who can you trust?
Just when you thought that this movie could not insult your intelligence any further, the producers of A Killing Affair throw in yet another contrived scene at the very end. The widow and her kids are on the train preparing to leave West Virginia and she has a conversation with the reverend who tries to persuade her to stay. She tells him that she is convinced that her husband deserved to die and that she has lost all faith in Christianity since the reverend dared to contradict the story that the admitted killer of her husband told her. She tells him that she intends to move to a city and get a job and forget everything that she learned in church. She also accuses him of having sold her into slavery.
This last statement is completely out of the blue. Along with numerous other statements made by characters, not to mention illogical plot twists, one cannot help but come to the conclusion that there must have been an awful lot of footage that was either cut from the film or left unshot due to budgetary constraints. As it stands, A Killing Affair is an incredibly illogical, not to mention idiotic, movie. While this production was considered “artistic” enough to be shown at an American Film Institute festival in 1988, among other venues, the American moviegoer has rejected it to the point that this writer was able to pick up a DVD of it for the price of $1.
A Killing Affair is contrived, illogical drivel that is not worth watching on an “its so bad its good” basis. Its just plain bad.