This fall, The Verge is making a choice. The choice is fear! We’ve decided to embrace the season by taking in as many new horror movies as possible, and reporting back on which ones are worth your time. We’re calling this series Hold My Hand, as we look at films you might want to watch with a supportive viewing partner. Get comfortable, put the kettle on, check the closet for ghosts, then find a hand to squeeze until the bones pop.
On its surface, Anita Rocha da Silveira’s debut film Kill Me Please is a serial killer movie. It follows a string of murders happening along the highways and in the vacant lots outside Rio de Janeiro. It includes the standard neighborhood paranoia of curfews, chaperones, radio hosts who bring up Ted Bundy, and candlelight vigils attended by neighbors and weirdos alike.
At its heart, however, it’s a teen movie — all sex, boredom, and power struggles, with an antiheroine who has a pink-sweatered teddy bear tacked to her bedroom wall right next to a plastic skeleton.
Kill Me Please (originally Mate-me Por Favor) is playing in limited theatrical release in the US, two years after it debuted to critical acclaim in da Silveira’s native Brazil. The film follows a group of four teenage girls whose friendship is stressed when their ringleader, Bia (Valentina Herszage), becomes obsessed with the murder spree. Her violent daydreams leak out into her real-life interactions, eventually testing the loyalty, weirdo tolerance, and physical stamina of everyone around her. How long would you put up with a friend whose idea of a fun sleepover activity is reading Facebook comments about a dead stranger, and whose notion of conflict resolution is smacking someone across the brow line?
Is it scary?
Kind of. Kill Me Please is scary in the way that it’s scary to stare at your own face in the mirror until you can see it only as a pile of mush draped over a pile of slightly harder mush and some brittle, fragile architecture. That is to say, it’s a scary movie that does its work slowly, playing an insidious little mind game by injecting whispers of violence into seemingly ordinary settings: a lunchroom dance-off, a glittery quinceañera, an afternoon at the mall. The scary thing about the film isn’t gore or jump scares, but the way it depicts the alienation of obsession. Bia’s social circle disintegrates as she slides into a lonesome, digitally enabled fever. It’s an exaggeration of the typical online “wormhole” experience, but it’s familiar, and it’s not just for teens.
Will I care about the characters?
At least one of them. Da Silveira spends the whole movie in Bia’s headspace, which makes her easy to care for. Valentina Herszage, who was 15 years old at the time of filming, won the award for Best Actress at the 2015 Rio Film Festival. She’s great at conveying the minute difference between a teenager’s resting glazed-over expression, and the face of a person in the middle of a private fantasy. Her character, who is bewildered by her own power for most of the film, reminded me of the similarly confused antiheroine played by Garance Marillier in Raw, Julia Ducournau’s fantastic teen-girl cannibal movie from 2016. As horror movies go, this one is exceptionally interested in its lead’s interiority. It’s easy to be scared of Bia and for her.
Is it visually impressive?
Yes. Kill Me Please sets its dreamy sequences in megachurches, reception halls, and high school courtyards. Da Silveira fills the screen with neon crosses, hot pink lipstick, reflective hoop earrings, and blood streaming down a glowing turquoise backdrop. There’s even a good dance routine, and a spectacularly choreographed brawl that starts over the simple question of whose turn it is to order a hamburger.
What’s lurking beneath the surface?
Past the most obvious plot level, Kill Me Please is about the dangers of adolescence, a period in life so boring that it seems to encourage you to do things that are likely to kill you. Kill Me Please is sort of about Facebook, and the way it enables voyeurism, masochism, and the type of persistent one-sided communication that can really scare the recipient. Kill Me Please is also about the cultural staying power of “Kiss and Say Goodbye,” a 1976 classic that a teenager might know without being able to articulate why, and a song that serves as the soundtrack for most of the film’s pivotal clique-on-clique confrontations.
But Kill Me Please is mostly about young women, what they look like, and how that determines whether they are seen by other human beings. In this movie, the only young women who are “seen” (as in, noticed or noted by other characters, rather than just the camera) are the ones who are aestheticized after their deaths as bone-white virgins set amid a field of daisies, the beautiful survivors whose eyes remind boys of the eyes of the dead girls, and the imaginary ones who are described only as fantasy or urban legend. Bia’s friends spend much of the movie struggling to fit her morbid fascinations into their group dynamic, and that process is further complicated by the nagging distractions of being a teenage girl in an image-obsessed world.
How can I watch it?
Kill Me Please is now screening at Alamo Drafthouse theaters, before a VOD release in the spring of 2018.
Is this a hand-holding movie?
No. Kill Me Please plants its core foursome in a headspace and philosophical universe completely separate from their romantic interests, who are clueless and vapid. This movie will make you hate anybody you see it with. Go alone. Be alone always? Maybe.