Film and TV

Girls’ Adolescence Makes for Terror in Brazil’s Sumptuous Kill Me Please

Valentina Herszage plays 15-year-old Bia, who joins her girlfriends to frequently discuss dreams of sex in Kill Me Please.
Valentina Herszage plays 15-year-old Bia, who joins her girlfriends to frequently discuss dreams of sex in Kill Me Please. Courtesy Cinema Slate
In Anita Rocha da Silveira’s lush, beguiling Kill Me Please, the rape and murder of young women in the film’s reality get regarded by the protagonists something like the fictional onscreen rape and murder of young women get regarded in our world. For the teen girlfriends that da Silveira follows, the wicked work of a Rio de Janeiro serial killer proves captivating, somewhat unreal, a fantasy turn-on. In the opening moments, with the eye of a fashion photographer, da Silveira reduces horror filmmaking to its disreputable essentials: A young beauty, dressed for a night out, stares out of the screen, toward us, as tears well up in her eyes and then slip stickily down her face. Soon, the girl is in desperate flight, pursued into a violet night by something we can’t see. Eventually, she crashes into the dirt, blood on her face. Again, she faces the camera and screams, three times. Between each, you’re left time to wonder: “What is the appeal of witnessing women’s pain?”

That question haunts Kill Me Please. The film then cuts to a pile of young women, dressed for gym class, lying strewn on a grassy field in full Virgin Suicides lassitude, spooking each other with sexually frank stories of killings, of rapes, of ghosts. Three times we’ll hear them spin such tales, between watching them grind up against boyfriends and each other, or attend anti-sex church services, all rendered in exquisite, patient shots that make still-life studies of each moment. The young women frequently discuss their dreams of sex, their reality of it and whether it hurts: a rape one dreamed of felt great, we’re told, while another’s (consensual, actual) first time was painful as hell until it wasn’t. Sex and death, pain and passion, all seem inextricably linked for this crew, even more so than for most adolescents; by the film’s end, most of the women we meet will be scarred and bandaged, not from the efforts of the killer but via their own everyday recklessness. Da Silveira lingers on their bruised flesh and faces, finding beauty and suspense in the peeling away of gauze. Other visions to anticipate: an awkward dance party, much ravenous makeout and a final shot of consummate eeriness.

When our lead, 15-year-old Bia (Valentina Herszage), happens upon a young woman’s corpse, one of the killer’s victims, she can’t resist kissing the dead girl. The most representative image of da Silveira’s film might be Bia, later, going about her day, her mouth smeared with more blood than lipstick, as if the two are the same, as if Bia wouldn’t have wiped it away, as if there’s no longer any need for makeup or metaphor when it comes to the necrophiliac appeal of the ruby-red mouths of women. Despite those opening moments, and its marvelously lurid colors, Kill Me Please is no giallo or genre thriller; its horror is intimate, suggestive, even implicating, and da Silveira maintains a tricky tone. Here adolescent wanderlust, powered by the characters’ persistent and confused arousal, continually edges against comedy and terror. Scariest as an examination of what fascinates us, this debut feature will annoy and alienate many, but it’s the work of a dynamic new talent.
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Alan Scherstuhl is film editor and writer at Voice Media Group. VMG publications include Denver Westword, Miami New Times, Phoenix New Times, Dallas Observer, Houston Press and New Times Broward-Palm Beach.
Contact: Alan Scherstuhl