Kill Your Lover Poster

Kill Your Lover (2023) Review

Kill Your Lover opens strong as a bloody, bandaged hand throws a picture of a smiling couple to the floor before grabbing a jagged shard of glass to use as an improvised dagger and walking out of the room as the film’s title flashes across the screen.

The film then flashes back to the woman in the picture, Dakota (Paige Gilmour, Happy Gals), telling her friend Rose (May Kelly, Monsternado, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey) she’s ready to break up with Axel (Shane Quigley-Murphy, Immortalised, Fair City), and she means it this time. Then it flashes back to a very different looking Dakota, a member of the group Black Gloved Killer, who just disbanded after releasing their horror-punk album Final Girls. She obviously quite enjoys her sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle, and looks a bit odd hooking up with the rather more straight laced Axel for the first time.

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Two years later, the difference is obvious, they live in a bland, barely decorated apartment that she’s afraid to let Rose smoke in. There’s none of her backstage photos on the wall, and even her tattoo “All Things Are Replaceable” has had “With Exceptions” tacked onto it. It’s obvious she changed herself drastically to suit him, and it hasn’t worked out well for either of them. But he can’t seem to realize it’s time to let go and move on.

Written and directed by Alix Austin (Etheria Film Night 2023, Isolation) and Keir Siewert (RETCH, Do Not Resuscitate), Kill Your Lover sets the stage for Dakota to end things with Axel and then throws viewers a curve by having him come home early. We hear him vomiting in the bathroom, then, in an extended split screen shot, we see him obviously ill and eavesdropping on the two women as it begins to shift from relationship drama to body horror.

Siewert and Austin actual tell two stories, as they frequently flash back to stages in the couple’s relationship, its deterioration matching Axel’s physical decline as his condition worsens, black veins spreading across his body, his sweat becoming so acidic it leaves burns. In something of a cross between David Cronenberg’s The Brood and Éric Falardeau’s Thanatomorphose his toxicity has manifested itself in a physical form. Unfortunately for Dakota, it’s also contagious.

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Much of the film is carried by excellent performances from the two leads, who are frequently the only ones on screen. Apart from Rose and a pair of paramedics played by Chloe Wigmore (The Show Must Go Online, Dead Tired) and Joshua Whincup (Alone With I, Everything Is Out to Get Me) who get caught in the conflict, this is a two person show. And those roles call for selling deep emotions, both happy and traumatic, as well as horror at the transformation that overtakes them, as well as getting physical by the film’s end.

You can also credit cinematographer Oscar Garth (Road Rage!, Confession) along with Rebecca Wheeler (The Siege, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom) and her makeup team for helping to make Kill Your Lover’s final act look and feel like a particularly bad nightmare. They create increasingly horrifying looking leads and some painful looking violence, and make the film’s single location feel claustrophobic to the point it’s more like a trap than an apartment.

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Kill Your Lover does an impressive job of making a nasty breakup into a different kind of horror story without sacrificing the emotional drama that goes with it. It’s frequently disturbing and at times hard to watch, especially if you’ve had to deal with a controlling and manipulative partner.

Even more impressive, Kill Your Lover is the first feature for Austin and Siewert separately or together, after several shorts, anthology segments and episodes of TV shows. They’ve delivered a film that will drag you through a bloody, bruising, chain of events but still end on a feel good note that may well have you laughing.

Dark Sky Films will release Kill Your Lover in theatres and on Digital and VOD Platforms on June 7th

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