Tepid Horror Procedural Finds a Killer Among Us (2021)
Title: Killer Among Us
First Non-Festival Release: April 16, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Charlie Scharfman
Writer: Charlie Scharfman, Daniel Lichtenberg
Runtime: 80 Minutes
Starring: Yasha Jackson, Andrew Richardson, Imani Lewis
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
While off duty, a rookie cop, Alisha (Yasha Jackson), witnesses a jarring interaction outside a corner store where a man shoves a woman into his car. Suspecting that something may be off, she decides to investigate. She learns that the young woman, Ricki (Imani Lewis), is a 16-year-old runaway sex worker and that the man (Andrew Richardson) she is with may be a serial killer with a body count consisting of the working girls of their city. By piecing together the scant clues surrounding her life and disappearance, Alisha must race against the deadly killer to save Ricki from becoming his latest victim.
A tense but otherwise lifeless serial killer thriller Killer Among Us fails to stand out from the slew of other offerings.
Rushed and nothing too special, Killer Among Us is another procedural based serial killer thriller that attempts to cash in on current politics to tell its story. The progression of the story doesn’t feel natural or earned, which is the biggest flaw in the script. There are too many instances of the narrative playing out perfectly. Pristine security footage and rapid-fire lab work are among the most glaring offenders. Critical information is left out and other times unnecessary information is added. For example, is there are reason why it’s set on the 4th of July other than having fireworks for the opening scene? Questions like this pop up throughout the narrative, making it a confounding one.
The cast do a fine job with their roles, but they can only do so much with what little they are given. There’s a distinct lack of depth afforded to most characters here. Everyone is relegated to their role and responsible for carrying out their part in the plot for progression’s sake. Very few mistakes are made, hopes and dreams are irrelevant, and faults are far and few between. From a story perspective it’s boring. The tension comes from the action on screen, but it isn’t enough to sustain interest over a period of time.
It feels more agenda-driven rather than story driven. The writing makes the film feel empty and the only thing that differentiates it from other films is its decision to root the killer’s actions in politics while simultaneously not committing to the bit. The killer listens to right wing commentary throughout the film. It seems like the goal is to show how reactionary and extremist content can radicalize people into doing terrible things. It doesn’t really work though. Other than these brief instances, there is very little depth added to his character beyond this. If a film wants to provide a reason for the violence, there can and should be compelling reasons why. It’s especially disappointing considering how much this could be explored, in the end it just feels lazy.
While there are plenty of critiques of Killer Among Us, it’s really a fine movie that does exactly what it sets out to do. Its main goal is to thrill and entertain, not enlighten us with anything too deep. While the dialogue isn’t anything new, scenes feel more intense than they have any credit to be thanks to tight direction and solid acting. It doesn’t do anything too egregious to draw fault or suspicion from so it remains a relatively uncontroversial watch.
Despite being derivative and uninspired, Killer Among Us is adept at creating and sustaining suspense in its short runtime. It’s entertaining but gets bogged down by how little it explores the ideas and motivations behind its killer and protagonist. There’s a constant “why” I kept asking myself throughout the film that never felt satisfactorily answered. It’s a missed opportunity for an otherwise okay film without any glaring flaws aside from its general emptiness. Killer Among Us isn’t going to win any awards but it is a sufficient thriller that will have you entertained.
Overall Score? 5/10