Serial-Killer Gimickery in Anamorph

What Would Argento Do?

Willem Dafoe (clearly in shock) in Anamorph
IFC Films
Willem Dafoe (clearly in shock) in Anamorph

Details

Anamorph
Directed by H.S. Miller
IFC Films, opens April 18, IFC Center

Those nutty cinematic serial killers—always taunting their pursuers with omniscient brilliance, always devising those elaborate crime-scene installations, yet somehow finding time to add that little something extra (death's-head moth larvae, ornate nods to the seven deadly sins, etc.) that means so much to a grumpy forensic investigator. The gimmick here is anamorphosis, the forced-perspective trick by which an image from one angle looks like something completely different from another angle; that means guilt-ridden CSI vet Willem Dafoe, just back from Anton Chigurh's barber, must decode the grisly tableaux of an artist whose principal media are blood, sharp objects, and eviscerated corpses. Twenty-five years ago, the Dario Argento of Tenebre might've socked this style-baiting silliness into the stratosphere, or at least past its eye-rolling contrivances (like the killer's ability to inconspicuously whip up a room-sized camera obscura). Director/co-writer H.S. Miller just lays on the chilly blues and a wet-blanket mood of arty anguish, leaving cinematographer Fred Murphy and production designer Jackson De Govia to trump up trompe l'oeils of carefully posed carrion. Any resemblance between these and the real-world practice known as murder—committed for trifling old human motivations like blind anger and money—is strictly coincidental.

 
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