Office Killer

(Cindy Sherman, USA, 1997)


Office Killer is the debut – and so far sole – feature of celebrated American visual artist Cindy Sherman.

It is part of a small cycle of narrative features made in the mid to late '90s by New York artworld celebrities including Julian Schnabel (Basquiat, 1996), Robert Longo (Johnny Mnemonic, 1995) and David Salle (Search and Destroy aka The Four Rules, 1995). (An Australian comparison is provided by Davida Allen's Feeling Sexy, 1999.) Like Longo, Sherman has opted for a genre exercise – her preferred poison being the Gothic-horror-thriller mode.

It is a thankfully modest effort which does not overburden itself trying to encapsulate the artist's entire career. The plot mainly takes place within a single workplace, the offices of Constant Consumer magazine. The shy, longstanding sub-editor Dorine (Carol Kane) is among those being retrenched by management.

Office Killer begins fetchingly as an off-key comedy of manners somewhere between All About Eve (1950) and a Fassbinder melodrama, with Molly Ringwald, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Barbara Sukowa exchanging bitchy remarks.

Once the grisly, serial murders start, and Dorine pokes around in the entrails of the assembled victims, the film becomes a rather predictable mélange of homages to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1964), the Italian gore-fests of Mario Bava and Dario Argento, and contemporary film theory's odes to the abject.

It is a modestly captivating piece, sustained by excellent performances (particularly from Kane), crisp production design, and a still photographer's sure sense of how to work the frame often placing important action and detail at the very edges of static compositions.

© Adrian Martin March 2000

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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