Warning: The following contains spoilers for Cult Killer.
The newest crime thriller from director Jon Keeyes — who is no stranger to both directing and producing intriguing horror and thriller flicks — is fascinating and unique enough to make a name for itself in the January movie slump that is already in full progress.
Starring Academy Award nominee Antonio Banderas, Alice Eve, and Shelley Hennig, the movie focuses on Cassie Holt (Eve), a crime-solving protégé of a private detective (Banderas) who is forced into a dangerous alliance with a killer named Jamie Douglas (Shelley Henning) once her mentor is murdered. Cassie must use her treacherous rapport with Jamie to not only solve the murder at hand but to unravel the salacious secrets the town holds.
‘Cult Killer’ Review: A Thriller That Starts The Year Off Right
The movie wastes no time establishing the relationship between Cassie and her private investigator mentor, opening with some innovative action angles and quippy one-liners that are delivered with a little less gusto than they should be. Keeyes also utilizes a Christopher Nolan-esque time-bending narrative technique to interweave deeper details about their relationship throughout the film with some flashbacks working to great effect and others to a more confusing outcome. After the private investigator is murdered, Cassie picks up where he left off on his most recent investigation, looking into an old-money family — the Evans — that has been accused of murder within the town.
After working with a quite whimsical and hilarious local police officer (Paul Reid), Cassie is able to search the castle (because, of course) for evidence leading to who killed her mentor. It’s from this point that Cassie discovers not only the murderer, Jamie, but the first breadcrumb leading to a dark and disturbing secret held by the Evans family. Keeyes successfully utilizes several fun storytelling techniques — energetic split-screen phone conversations, self-aware characters, and effective and sensical plot twists — that make this movie stand out from generic crime thrillers of late.
The smartly-used juxtaposition of two women on opposite sides of the law sharing bolstering themes and traumas yet leading to different outcomes makes for a far more interesting dissection of the film than just a cool crime thriller might lead to. While a highlight of Cult Killer, it also segues into the hindrances of the film, with the biggest being the lack of depth to the mystery at hand. It feels as though the movie refuses to investigate the true and more powerful meaning behind its ideas, instead opting for frequent and slightly gratuitous visual shock and a shallow thematic exploration.
Perhaps a longer runtime — this movie sits at a comfortable 105 minutes — or a more narratively cohesive imagining of the connection between past relationships and current investigations could have seen this film taken to a higher level. However, the movie still offers an intriguing mystery if you are willing to enjoy it for what it is.
Antonio Banderas Is a Massive Part of What Works in ‘Cult Killer’
As with most things Antonio Banderas is in, he is a key feature of the film that I consistently found myself wanting more of. Several elements of this film work — with Banderas being a massive one — and assist it in standing out as an above-average crime thriller that could make for a genuinely fun movie night. Conversely, multiple aspects impede the film from what it could be. Ultimately, Cult Killer finds itself as a unique, slightly ineffective crime thriller that isn’t all that bad of a way to kick off 2024.
Cult Killer comes to theaters on January 19, 2024. Follow the Agents of Fandom socials for the latest entertainment news, reviews, and coverage.
'Cult Killer' Review'Cult Killer' Review
- Unique camera and storytelling techniques.
- A fun plot twist.
- Not enough depth to add to the mystery.
- A confusing and convoluted timeline.