Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #763
Number of Views: One
Release Date: July 27, 2007
Sub-Genre: Psychological Thriller
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $9,700,000
Running Time: 105 minutes
Director: Chris Sivertson
Producers: Frank Mancuso, Jr., David Grace
Screenplay: Jeff Hammond
Special Effects: David Monzingo, Larry Fioritto
Visual Effects: Roger Nall
Cinematography: John R. Leonetti
Score: Joel McNeely
Editing: Lawrence Jordan
Studio: 360 Pictures
Distributor: TriStar Pictures
Stars: Lindsay Lohan, Julia Ormond, Neal McDonough, Brian Geraghty, Garcelle Beauvais, Spencer Garrett, Kenya Moore, Gregory Itzin, Thomas Tofel, Rodney Rowland, Michael Adler, Paula Marshall, Brian McNamara, Stacy Lynn Gabel, Michael Papajohn, Art Bell, Jessica Rose, Michelle Page
Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Lindsay Lohan “Drama Queen (That Girl)”
 Joel McNeely “Prelude/ Reunited”
 Out Hud “How Long”
 Joel McNeely “Fairytale Theme”
 Vietnam “Step On Inside”
It’s astonishing how fast you can go from being America’s sweetheart to being regarded as some washed up skank with nothing to offer outside of controversial headlines. When Lindsey Lohan’s personal struggles became front page news, her turns in such crowd-pleasing fare as Mean Girls, The Parent Trap and Freaky Friday were forgotten in an instant.
Suddenly the knives were drawn, paparazzi lurked in the wings awaiting a solitary slip up to twist for effect, and the mainstream media appeared to be getting some kind of sick kick from watching this former golden girl come a cropper. This all occurred while Lohan was shooting Chris Sivertson’s I Know Who Killed Me and predictably the film was literally torn a brand new asshole by critics the world over.
Production was halted on numerous occasions due to exhaustion, appendix surgery, and a 30-day stint in rehab. Then in July 2007, with Lohan scheduled to promote its theatrical unveiling, she was arrested for driving under the influence and this served only to fuel the fires. As a result, I Know Who Killed Me was universally panned by critics, failed to recoup its original outlay at the box-office, and wound up nominated for nine Golden Raspberry Awards, bagging itself an unprecedented eight ghastly gongs.
Naturally, most of the blame landed on Lohan’s doorstep, citing her awkward transition from one time Disney princess to pole-grinding slut as the reason for its capitulation and bemoaning her dual-role performance for being insincere and soulless. Hollywood needed a fall girl and Lohan just so happened to be the go-to chick at the time. I consider that risible behavior and, in case you’re wondering, I’m not speaking of Lohan’s swan dive from grace here. That was simply human.
I sat on a soapbox once and, aside from the fact that my farts smelled of lavender, found it an uncomfortable pedestal to be perched on. I’ve not been placed here to form assumptions on the character of another; particularly when only presented a skewed take on events that need not even concern me in the first place. Writing about movies is my gig and, should Lohan be in one I happen across, then I’ll certainly not be praying for her to slip up or drop any additional hazards in her path. In a decade’s time, anything scandalous will have blown over, and perhaps then we can appraise Sivertson’s film fairly. Somewhat uncannily, it’s almost ten years today since its original release, so there seems no better time to set a few things straight.
Make no mistake, I Know Who Killed Me isn’t some overlooked classic of modern cinema. Indeed, it all hangs together rather clumsily, if you wish to pick holes in the narrative. However, what the naysayers failed to note was that one of Sivertson’s chief influences was Italian maestro, Dario Argento, from both an aesthetic and thematic standpoint. The creative genius may know how to make a strong point visually, but nobody watches an Argento movie for its grasp of logic or sense of cohesion.
We are required to make certain exceptions and, as a result, the rewards are more often than not spectacular. Another influence I felt watching this was Brian De Palma (also of Italian ancestry) and you only need look at Body Double to know just how categorically a film can be misunderstood when not taken in the correct context. As luck would have it, here’s a little context right on cue.
Yale-bound New Salem academic, Aubrey Fleming (Lohan), is an aspiring writer and talented pianist. She comes from a good home, parents Susan (Julia Ormond) and Daniel (Neal McDonough) are supportive of her endeavors, and her adoring ever-horny boyfriend Jerrod (Brian Geraghty) follows her about like a lovesick puppy. By all accounts, Aubrey is your regular charmed high school senior; but that is all about to change in a heartbeat.
You see, suddenly Audrey simply disappears into thin air. While the circumstances themselves are suspicious, the fact that it comes hot on the heels of one of her classmates being abducted and murdered, doesn’t bode at all well. A special FBI Task Force is assigned to the case, none of them appear to be making any real headway, and all the while poor Aubrey is bound and gagged on an operating table in an undisclosed location, undergoing a little unofficial “surgery”. We’re not talking Botox to address the frown lines either. I once heard this particular procedure referred to as being “munsoned” and let’s just say that her piano playing days are about to become severely numbered.
Not content with merely unhanding Aubrey, her captor then decides to level the playing field so to speak, making off with her right getaway stick also, before seemingly losing interest and dumping her barely breathing body in a roadside ditch for the jackals to feast upon. Understandably, confusion reigns supreme as she awakens after life-saving surgery to discover the full extent of her quandary.
If Aubrey was looking for positives after having her writing hand unceremoniously subtracted from its wrist, then at least she wasn’t a pole dancer by trade as that would have been some balancing act with only 1.5 legs at her disposal. However, here is where things begin to get complicated as, according to a dazed and confused Aubrey, she’s got no idea whatsoever who the fuck Aubrey actually is. Post traumatic stress then? Perhaps but the identity of Dakota Moss appears to fit far more snugly now and every last one of her vague recollections supports her claim.
The bookish girl of yesterday is nowhere to be found and, in her place, is a feisty young redhead dragged up by her crack-addled mother and most at home gyrating her ass in punters’ faces to make ends meet in more than one way. One thing in abundance is plucky spirit and Dakota will need all of that she can get as she struggles to readjust to being a double amputee with suspected amnesia and quite possibly delusional.
Her parents are convinced this is Aubrey, DNA tests suggest this is Aubrey, but Aubrey is absolutely dead set that she ain’t Aubrey. Fuck it, may as well return to the family home and humor your concerned parents; while attempting to piece this bizarre puzzle together. At least, you’ve got free room and board there.
I told you she had pluck. While nobody around her has the faintest clue how to breach the topic with her, our wounded soldier is determined not to let this setback get the better of her. In fine-tuned street smarts, Dakota happens to possess something that Aubrey didn’t and she plans to make best of the rubber hand she’s been dealt and uncover the truth, both about her identity and that of her assailant. Time is of the essence here as the visions are getting worse, police are no closer to apprehending this sever-happy surgeon, and she’s doubly screwed if she forgets to place her leg on its recharging dock before bedtime.
I Know Who Killed Me is up against it early doors as Jeff Hammond’s screenplay frequently flirts with the nonsensical and repeatedly forgets to check in with logic. That said, that’s kind of the idea here, as barely a minute passes without Lohan front and centre and, if everything feels fragmented to our lead, then surely there’s an open invitation right there for suchlike bewilderment from the audience. Granted, it’s a stretch at times, but Sivertson has more than enough tools at his disposal to ensure the journey is never less than fascinating.
He permeates the screen in danger reds and electric blues, with phantasmagorical photography from the more than able John R. Leonetti (Insidious, The Conjuring) lending a certain fever dream quality to proceedings that skillfully reflects the fast-rupturing mindset of its main protagonist and does so with style to spare. Argento’s visual influence is as plain as deep red against blue satin and, I for one, will never turn my nose up to such “homage” being played when the approach is used so persuasively.
I could be digging too deep beneath the veneer here by also likening Sivertson’s efforts to the work to Alfred Hitchcock, particularly with the manner in which dark humor is used on occasion as a tension breaker. This derives from the quizzical responses of Audrey’s nonplussed boyfriend, her mother’s numerous failed attempts to bond with her daughter and frantic scrubbing as she is forced to endure her rafter-rattling amputee sex upstairs, that quite frankly ridiculous hand, and the obscene protruding testicles of her hairless Sphynx cat. You’ve got to grab those belly laughs where you can right?
As for Lohan’s dual-headed turn, well much has been made of how shockingly inept it is, to the point where she earned a Worst Screen Couple Razzie for the two characters she portrays. Thoroughly undeserved in my opinion. Granted, her delivery is occasionally a little flat but, by and large, she convinces on both counts. There’s undoubtedly a running theme here, with both The Parent Trap and Freaky Friday previously touching on crises of identity, but any parallels drawn between Lohan’s on-screen duality and her very public personal life only serve to make Aubrey/Dakota even more captivating to observe.
Whether you find Lohan’s performance inspired or insipid, I Know Who Killed Me works best when she’s dead centre of the frame. The mystery element is uninspired and amounts to little more than the customary glaring red herrings, the supposed crack FBI Task Force don’t appear able to organize a piss up in a brewery, and the killer is ultimately just a plot device as opposed to an operational character. That said, I’ve watched far too many giallos in my time to place all my eggs in one basket with a motion picture like this and, a decade after its public deflowering, have a sneaking suspicion that Sivertson’s taut little psychological thriller may mature rather well with age. With a film such as this, it’s all about checking those blind spots.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: There is actually relatively little in the way of grue although, what we do get, is both slickly presented and suitably wince-inducing. Even here, critics have found fault, but I found the effects more than up to snuff, including our leading lady’s lack of limbs. Watching poor Aubrey surrender her wristwatch in such excruciating fashion has left me more terror-stricken than ever about the prospect of one day being “munsoned”. As for how well our bad girl Lohan fares navigating a well greased pole, well you may have to get the next round as my last twenty is already wedged down her ass crack.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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