Looks Can Kill continues in the tradition that dates back to 1964 and Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace (6 Donne per L’assassino). Not the tradition of the Giallo, but one of its more common plot devices, models falling prey to a serial killer. That’s a plot that’s since turned up in everything from exploitation films like The Centerfold Girls to big-budget, major studio thrillers like The Eyes of Laura Mars.
Rhonda (Danielle Scott, Prototype, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey) gets a call from her sister Gina (Sarah Alexandra Marks, Kingdom of the Dinosaurs, Exorcist Vengeance). Their father has taken a turn for the worse and won’t live through the night. But she has more important matters, like a meeting with her agent. Which explains why she’s wearing nothing but her underwear.
Elsewhere Pete (George Nettleton, Monster Portal, Blood Myth) is supervising a cheerleader-themed T&A photoshoot that’s all about “sexy fear” as he calls it. Despite having what many would call a dream job, Pete does not seem like a happy man. After the shoot, he rants to photographer Zach (Matthew Baunsgard, Bundy and the Green River Killer, Cleavers: Killer Clowns) about the model they just photographed, “double D dimwit” being the nicest phrase he uses. That then segues into rants about internet porn and Instagram which he blames for his business troubles.
Jasmine Ebony Thomas makes her debut directing a script by Tom Hillery who has little in the way of writing credits but a long list as a producer on films including Seized, The Legion, and Attack of the Unknown. They open the film with loads of drama and a fair amount of nudity, something surprising for a film produced by Scott Jeffrey (Reign of Chaos, The Gardener) who tends to avoid showing skin. Whether to avoid ratings issues or because it would mean paying the actresses more I’m not sure.
The closest Looks Can Kill gets to killing anyone in the first act is a reference to the BLT (Bondage, Lechery, Torture) Killer and a photo shoot with a broken bottle that may or may not have been real glass. And that is a problem because even an erotic thriller needs some thrills that land above the viewer’s waistline and this delivers none.
Instead, Looks Can Kill drags on with some drama about Rachael’s now-deceased father and what must have been the world’s fastest probate. There’s Hank (Clint Gordon, Spider in the Attic, The Legend of Jack and Jill) and his financial issues, and a couple of friends of other models and their financial issues driving them into the modeling industry as well. All of this adds to the potential body count but doesn’t get one started.
So not only aren’t we getting any slasher-type thrills but Looks Can Kill quickly becomes very chaste with no more nudity or even scantily clad models. In other words, it becomes a talky drama about the modeling industry and not a particularly interesting one until after the hour mark when the filmmakers remember that there are supposed to be some murders. And we do get a couple in the last half hour, one of which, an asphyxiation, could have been nasty if they hadn’t cut away. The same with an axe murder. Even at the end when it suddenly wants to be Saw, Looks Can Kill refuses to get bloody.
Looks Can Kill is the kind of film where they leave a model cuffed to a chair while they’re done. And apparently, never go back or they would have found her corpse, so I suppose it shouldn’t have surprised me that the reveal of the killer’s identity would be laughable and involve some deliberate cheating to try and hide their identity. Not that it helps because, despite some half-assed attempts to make us suspect several other people, the killer’s identity is an easy guess.
Given its opening, I had hopes that Looks Can Kill would be an enjoyably sleazy throwback to the 70s and 80s thrillers. Instead, it turned out to be yet another dull thrill-less thriller. ITN Distribution has made it available on various streaming platforms including free with ads on Tubi and YouTube, although the YouTube version is probably edited. But even for free, you can do much better. And FilmTagger can suggest a few films that most likely are much better.