Amityville Karen opens with music and credits that could almost have been stolen from a 1980s episode of The Wonderful World of Disney accompanied by footage of an all-too-perfect upscale neighbourhood. Perfect that is until the camera finds its way into the bedroom of Karen (Lauren Francesca, Catskill Park, Final Kill). She’s talking in her sleep, rattling off a non-stop litany of insults and threats.
We then get to follow her through her day as she spouts insults at everything and everyone who crosses her path. Her job as a code enforcement officer takes her to a struggling local brewery where, in and around threatening to have it shut down, she demands that Troy (James Duval, Beast Mode, The Runner) add her to the guest list for their next function. She also helps herself to a bottle of wine she brings the kind of trouble on herself that no amount of demanding to see the manager can get her out of.
Amityville Karen is the first feature directorial credit for Shawn C. Phillips, better known as an actor in the likes of The Poltergeist Diaries, and appropriately enough, Amityville in the Hood. The script is also the feature debut of actress Julie Anne Prescott (Hi-Fear, H.P. Lovecraft’s Witch House). Unfortunately, the lack of experience shows right from the film’s opening minutes.
The first half hour wants to be a humorous build-up of Karen, establishing what an awful person she is before delivering some supernatural payback. Unfortunately, it isn’t funny and listening to her gets old very quickly. There are only so many times you can see her saying “I want to talk to your supervisor” in her sleep before it goes from amusing to annoying. It didn’t help that I found Francesca’s performance a bit too laid back, probably because due to the film’s association with the Karen meme I was expecting a ranting, scenery chewing, over-the-top performance like we saw in those viral videos.
And even after the film’s horror elements kick in, Amityville Karen still spends way too much time being a vanilla comedy. Yes, it gives us a chance to see familiar faces such as Jennifer Nangle (Malvolia: the Queen of Screams, Zombi VIII: Urban Decay), Mike Ferguson (Hellblazers, Triassic Hunt) and Dawna Lee Heising (Bad President, The Horrific Evil Monsters). But the scenes aren’t funny and add nothing to the plot except length. And at an hour and forty-five minutes, this film is extremely overlong and bloated.
If they had cut much of the extraneous material out of the middle of the film, along with painfully unfunny scenes such as the band delivering lyrics like “A hole is a hole, don’t you know about the pole in my pants” and concentrated on the killings, Amityville Karen might have had a chance. Every time it starts to build some momentum it loses focus and undercuts itself.
The kills that we see range from a fairly decent death by corkscrew and a throat-cutting to a disembowelling that’s simply a prop intestine and some blood placed on the actor’s obviously intact abdomen. Most however are either bloodless, out of frame or totally off-screen. While that is pretty normal for a film with this low of a budget, it’s too bad, because a final act full of comically over-the-top gore might have made Amityville Karen at least watchable.
Amityville Karen shows flashes of talent and does have the occasional scene that hits the mark. Unfortunately, it never manages to string enough of them together to overcome the script’s flaws. And as a final insult to the viewer, it ends on a series of mostly awful segments that look like “be in the movie” perks from the crowdfunding campaign.
Phillips and Prescott have several other films currently in post-production, let’s hope they learned from this one. SRS Cinema has released Amityville Karen on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital platforms. If that isn’t quite what you were looking for, FilmTagger can suggest something similar.