Plot: teen is targeted by a deranged serial murderer
Some movies just defy description. Others never deliver on their promises. The most fascinating are those that are so defiantly weird that they become their own category. I Know Who Killed Me is bad. Showgirls (1995) bad. The Room (2003) bad. 12 million dollars, 4 months of production, a former Disney child star in her first grown up role and a host of embarrassed television actors can’t possibly salvage what by all accounts was shaping up to be one hell of a trainwreck. I Know Who Killed Me is an affront to anyone’s sensibilities; cinematic and otherwise.
How is it possible that a movie trying so hard to be slick and sexy can be so unbelievably unerotic at the same time? I Know Who Killed Me wants, at any cost, to be sleazy. It yearns, no, desperately craves, to be trashy – but somehow manages to be more prudish than the average syndicated TV show. The thrills are never thrilling, the sexy scenes are so terminally dull, badly staged and unerotic that peeling your own eyes out becomes a tantalizing prospect, and the screenplay is so nonsensical and convoluted that they might as well have started filming without one. A rookie director, a first-time writer and a name-star well past her due date. Was there any way this could have ended well for anybody? I Know Who Killed Me was a failure of such collosal, epic proportions that it killed Lindsay Lohan’s career.
That I Know Who Killed Me was even greenlit for production is largely thanks to the then-still relative bankability of freckled redhead Lindsay Lohan. Lohan first broke to the big time with her dual role in the 1998 remake of Disney’s The Parent Trap (1961). That streak continued with another remake of a classic Disney staple in the form of the 2003 reimagining of Freaky Friday (1976), a role that earned her the award for Breakthrough Performance at the 2004 MTV Movie Awards. Lohan’s star truly rose with Disney’s Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004) and the sleeper hit Mean Girls (2004). From that point forward Lohan’s off-set shenanigans started to catch up with her as she was involved in a series of car accidents in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Her last Disney project Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005), the fifth (and, so far, last) installment of the Herbie franchise, was a production fraught with problems from Lohan’s side. Her on-set diva behavior and hard partying ways had become the stuff of legend and she had to be hospitalized with a kidney infection. Disney on their side spent a good fortune on visual effects artificially reducing Lohan’s famous bosoms because they apparently would distract too much from a talking car. Just My Luck (2006) put a dent in her career, overtaken almost completely by tabloid press and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and not even the Robert Altman comedy A Prairie Home Companion (2006) and the Emilio Estevez drama Bobby (2006) were able to pull LiLo from the path to self-destruction she had embarked on.
In 2007 production on I Know Who Killed Me, Lindsay’s much-publicized first grown up role, was halted as she had to undergo appendix surgery. Around the same time LiLo admitted herself to the Wonderland Center rehabilitation facility in Los Angeles for a month-long treatment. Her legal, personal, and substance abuse problems became so grave that during production she either showed up very late, or failed to show up at all. For the climax director Chris Sivertson was forced to use a body double to complete the project. Sivertson’s only prior credit of note was co-directing the 2004 remake of The Toolbox Murders (1978) and this remains Jeff Hammond’s first (and, likely, only) screenwriting credit. I Know Who Killed Me was nominated for a grand total of nine Razzies, or Golden Raspberry Awards, eight (Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Excuse for a Horror Movie, and Worst Rip-off, among them) of which it ended up winning. It was not screened in advance for critics for a very good reason. I Know Who Killed Me is terrible.
Sivertson knows his classics and desperately wants to mimic the style of Brian DePalma, Dario Argento, and David Lynch and fails spectacularly. I Know Who Killed Me is simply so uniformly and universally terrible on all fronts that you’d wish Jess Franco had directed it. Suffice to say I Know Who Killed Me all but killed Lohan’s once promising career. It heralded LiLo’s spectacular and very public fall from grace and her subsequent spiral into irrelevance. Almost immediately the ill-repute from I Know Who Killed Me spread like wildfire in the bad cinema blogosphere. It wasn’t until 2010 when LiLo hit absolute rock bottom as she alternated between time in jail and in rehab. In 2012 the inevitable spread in Playboy followed. In the decade-plus since I Know Who Killed Me, LiLo’s career, or what little that’s left of it at any rate, has shown no signs of improving. Chris Sivertson, inexplicably, remains active as a screenwriter and director.
In the idyllic upper middle class town of New Salem (Massachusetts? North Dakota? Illinois? New York? Pennsylvania? Does it really matter?) a young woman called Aubrey Fleming (Lindsay Lohan) - an aspiring young writer, naturally gifted pianist and grade-A student - has gone missing, causing great consternation to her parents Daniel (Neal McDonough) and Susan (Julia Ormond). Jennifer Toland (Stacy Lynn Gabel), an earlier abductee, was found horribly mutilated, tortured and very much dead. Fleming’s disappearance prompts an investigation by an FBI taskforce led by agents Phil Lazarus (Spencer Garrett) and Julie Bascome (Garcelle Beauvais, as Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon). One night a bloodied, mutilated girl named Dakota Moss (Lindsay Lohan) is found in the middle of nowhere. The agents, Aubrey’s parents and a psychiatrist question and later try to jog Dakota’s memory believing her to be a fabrication on Aubrey’s part as a defense mechanism to deal with her obvious trauma. As Dakota gathers the clues revealing a long-hidden sordid family secret Moss is able to ascertain who is the perpetrator behind the terrible slaying that continues to haunt New Salem, allowing her to at long last meaningfully mumble: "I Know Who Killed Me." No, it wasn't the butler, cos that is the only cliché that I Know Who Killed Me avoids.
To see beloved television actors as Gregory Itzin, Neal McDonough, Michael Adler, Brian McNamara, and Paula Marshall slumming it up waiting for the paycheck to clear, trying to maintain a straight face while sputtering their way through some of the most hackneyed Ed Wood-ian, near Tommy Wiseau-ian dialog imagineable is heartbreaking to say the least. Itzin, McDonough, Adler, McNamara and Marshall one and all are reliable television actors well above and beyond this kind of cinematic crapshoot. The other name star in I Know Who Killed Me is British expat Julia Ormond, who is under the mistaken impression that this is a serious movie. To see her cringe her way through the “mister Gervais” scene in the hospital is actively pain-inducing. Ormond, the poor thing, was in Legends Of the Fall (1994), Sabrina (1995), and First Knight (1995) in just the decade prior. Thankfully she redeemed herself with David Fincher’s multiple Academy Award nominated The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008) with Brad Pitt the following year.
Apparent YouTube sensation of the day Jessica Rose, “lonelygirl15” to the demographic this was no doubt marketed towards, plays a bit part as one of Aubrey’s friends. The rest of the no-name cast are either wooden or sleepwalking their respective roles. The screenplay is an epic display of undiluted incompetence. Jeff Hammond obviously looked at Planet Terror (2007), Captivity (2007) and Saw (2004) (on to its second sequel by 2007) for inspiration as I Know Who Killed Me features a pole-dancing lead character, loses itself in endless (and, frankly, tedious) montages of torture-porn and has a serial murderer antagonist with a predilection towards punishing his victims through elaborate revenge schemes and contraptions. Characters and plotpoints, big and small, disappear or are not followed up upon with alarming frequency and the symbolism is as subtle as a bull in a china shop. Rank desperation, that’s what it is. Chris Sivertson is a competent director, there’s no contesting. Not even he can save this hot mess of a screenplay.
I Know Who Killed Me desperately wishes it was an Italian giallo murder mystery. It has the sadistic killer in gloves targeting nubile women, it's more transgressive in its portrayal of sexuality than is usually the norm for Hollywood, one of Aubrey’s closest relatives and her family harbors a dark secret, and the red-blue lighting obviously takes after the best works of both Mario Bava and Dario Argento. To even things out there’s also a premature burial and the killer gets really creative upon his captive victims. It opens with a strip routine that looks like it was recreated wholesale from Jess Franco’s The Devil Came From Akasava (1971) and Vampyros Lesbos (1971) and then continues with more elegiac static strip routines that seem to take more after Diana Lorys in Nightmares Come at Night (1972) in the sense that they go nowhere and show nothing. Where old Jess had a chronic problem getting women into their clothes, I Know Who Killed Me found itself saddled with a diva who through contractual stipulations refused to get out of hers. It's exactly the sort of problem you'd never have with starlets like Misty Mundae.
La Lohan duly researched her all-important grown up role, taking up pole-dancing lessons in preparation and gloriously shot herself in the foot and into the hearts of sex workers everywhere with such eloquent, sensible and carefully worded declarations as, “They're all whores, they're all whores . . . xcept for some obviously!", “strippers dude, I tell you, I really respect the cunts now. . . I'm not gonna lie to ya” and letting candid bits of wisdom as “rehab was a sobering experience” escape her mouth. Even The French Sex Murders (1972) was more sleazy and, relatively speaking, there were far more sleazier gialli that decade. At least it had Barbara Bouchet. Lohan’s amputated extremities are probably the worst in a moderate budget Hollywood production in living memory. Her severed arm in particular is, somehow, less convincing (despite the obvious and expensive green-screen composit shots that it took to produce the effect) than Pier Luigi Conti’s not-really-a-stump in Jess Franco’s Eurociné jungle epic White Cannibal Queen (1980). The line “people get cut. That’s life” is on par with “Everybody got AIDS and shit!” from Showgirls (1995) and Tommy Wiseau’s “I did not hit her!” non sequitur from The Room (2003).
Who casts Lindsay Lohan and has her not take her clothes off? LiLo plays a stripper who wears far too many layers of clothes and whose routines seem to take ages. Lohan is given a shower scene and we’re not even treated to a lingering ass shot or a glance of sideboob? The average Andy Sidaris movie was spicier, Tinto Brass (who is a master technician) is sleazier through his innate artistry. Not to mention that the late Jess Franco had Romina Power, Susan Hemingway, and Katja Bienert suffering all sorts of unspeakable indignities and humiliations before they were even old enough to drink! Marie Liljedahl was barely 18 when she bared all in Joseph W. Sarno's Inga (1968). Mary and Madeleine Collinson had been flaunting their twins for a good two years before they landed the titular part in Twins Of Evil (1971) and they were barely 19. Renato Polselli and Luigi Batzella made entire features during the wicked and wild 1970s wherein Rita Calderoni barely wore any clothes. It’s depressing on how many levels that I Know Who Killed Me fails in the most obvious of ways. It’s certainly an achievement when the works of Jess Franco and the Eurociné repertoire become a viable alternative. I Know Who Killed Me is such an awesome concentration of pure wretchedness that, somehow, some way, the alternate ending is even worse than the theatrical one. I Know Who Killed Me is a Lovecraftian monstrosity of such staggering proportions that if you gaze into it long enough, a glassy, empty-eyed Lindsay Lohan will stare right back at you…