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Killing Words - Lion's Gate Films Print E-mail
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Written by Ray Casta   
Saturday, 12 January 2008

"Killing Words" DVD Cover - Severed Cinema

AKA: Palabras Encadenadas
Directed by: Laura Mana
Written by: Fernando de Felipe
Produced by: Daniel Martinez de Obregon, Julio Fernández
Cinematography by: Xavier Jimenez
Editing by: Luis de la Madrid
Music by: Francesc Gener
Cast: Darío Grandinetti, Goya Toledo, Fernando Guillén, Eric Bonicatto
Year: 2003
Country: Spain
Language: Spanish
Color: Color
Runtime: 89 minutes

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Video: NTSC R1
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 - Spanish (English Subtitles)
Official Website: http://movies.filmax.com/palabrasencadenadas/
Distributor: Lion's Gate Home Entertainment

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Laura Mana's "Killing Words" is a quite a brilliant film in which suspense intensely builds up until it is too late to refuse.  Most thrillers employ a traditional cat-and-mouse plot, but very rarely do those films attentively depend on wordplay and superlatively calculated twists and turns.  For another film, violence would be the filmmaker's focus, in order for the suspense to be maintained.  In Mana's film, suspense is rapidly intensified with every tempestuous, volatile bit of dialogue.  Twists are a dime a dozen in these films, though it takes sheer skill for them to work and function properly.  Intelligence is integral for a perfect twist, and most filmmakers often miss the consequential point by disregarding their characters and allowing twists to be the main focus.  Characters are the main focus in "Killing Words" and if it wasn't for their interplay, the twists would be irrelevant.  If Mana didn't accentuate a true understanding and handling the material with proper care, the twists wouldn't be able to intently generate power.  Thankfully enough, every surprise works to the film's benefit; thus, the jolt we are reeling from at the shocking conclusion is all the more legitimate.

Killing Words

The film opens to Laura (Goya Toledo), who wakes up alone in a dark room, bound and gagged to a chair.  When she wakes up, a video starts to play on a TV, showing her ex-husband, Ramon (Dario Grandinetti).  He confesses to 18 murders, and he tries to convince Laura she will be his last victim before turning himself in.  The lights in the vast basement are suddenly turned out, and Ramon is in the room already, staring his ex-wife down.  He challenges her to a word game, telling her all of the gory details how he is going to kill her if she loses.  He tells her he'll start by scooping her eyeballs out with a spoon.  If he loses, however, she will be let free.  The game is simple: a word chain.  The story intercuts to an interrogation room, where Ramon was brought in for questioning on the sudden disappearance of Laura.  They have been divorced for almost four years now, and he tries to assure the police he has not seen her since their divorce trial.  But, the police know something is going on, after they produce the video tape Ramon originally showed his wife.  They show Ramon the tape, in which he confesses 18 murders.

Ramon tells the investigators the whole story, and tells them he did abduct his wife and brought her back to his basement.  The reason he did it, he says, is because he wanted to scare her enough to confess all of the lies she told during their trial.  The investigators are smart enough to realize the story is full of holes, as they look deeper into the case.  No matter what Ramon tells them, there is still the fact Laura is nowhere to be found.  Ramon swears she has run away, but there is more to it than that.  Expect the nerve-racking twists to crank up in the interrogation between Ramon and the police, and the interplay between Ramon and Laura.  During 89 minutes, surprises are right behind every corner.  Just when we think we figured it out, we didn't.  I wouldn't dream of giving it all away, but it's so methodically planned on Mana's part, Ramon's agenda is played out perfectly until the ending.  When he is brought into the police station for interrogation, we think he was caught, or at least figured out.  We couldn't be more wrong.  He admitted to kidnapping Laura, but when do we found out what happened to her?  You are kept at the edge of your seat, trying desperately to figure out what is going to happen and when it is going to happen.

Killing Words

"Killing Words" has the elements of horror and a thriller, but it's more psychological above anything else when it slowly gets inside your head and stays there.  Calling it one of the great thrillers in the last few years does not give it justice.  A difficult film to categorize, Mana's work shouldn't be put in one genre because it incessantly plays with your perceptions and proves you wrong.  At its core, it is a careful thriller where mental abuse and psychological games are the focus instead of mindless violence.  Throughout, the performances are superb.  A calm, collective portrayal of the psychopath makes a performance so much more chilling, and Grandinetti realizes this.  If a remake was made, no one would be able to reach the intensity Grandinetti has.  There wouldn't be anyone I can think of that conveys a calculating agenda like he has.  What makes "Killing Words" so utterly effective is the interaction between Ramon and Laura.  Body language is so convincing, where we're under the impression they've been at each other's necks for years -- even during the marriage.  Goya Toledo is provocative and stunning as Laura, who might be subdued to a chair, but is strong enough to be her ex-husband's match.  Is it possible he underestimated her?  The roles between victim and abuser are constantly changed, and you find yourself wondering whose side you are on.

Technically, "Killing Words" is filmed to perfection by Xavi Gimenez.  If you've seen "The Machinist" (2004), then you know how superbly shot Mana's film will be beforehand.  The film conveys a sense of claustrophobia in its opening sequences, where Ramon's dark and gloomy basement becomes a reality to the viewer.  One of the best working cinematographers today, Gimenez uses Ramon's to his complete advantage, utilizing every inch of the room.  When we initially see Laura's red dress, we're under the impression the deep red symbolizes blood/death.  For a movie filmed in minimal space, I give Gimenez credit for his striking visuals that are grimy or polished when they need to be.  What I think the film further benefits from is the editing by Luis de la Madrid, who has intercut a series of sequences between each other throughout.  The film is vastly entertaining for this reason, and if the editing wasn't as sharp, it would be repetitive and useless.  Francesc Gener helps greatly with the score by giving the action a certain, pulsating edge.  Laura Mana's "Killing Words" is a taut and menacing psychologically complex mind twister of a film.

SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL:

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RATING:
VIDEO: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed Cinema
AUDIO: Dolby Digital 2.0 - Spanish (English Subtitles) 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaThe image “http://severed-cinema.com/images/half-star.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.No Skull - Severed Cinema

 

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