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The Mark of Kane

[whitespace] Office Killer Catch As Catch Kane: Carol Kane stars a mild-mannered woman driven to serial killing in Cindy Sherman's 'Office Killer.'

In 'Office Killer,' the star
outshines the story

By Richard von Busack

IT'S BAD ENOUGH to see a film again and again and watch the stars keep their beauty, undiminished by time while everything in the world outside the theater gets uglier, smellier, dirtier, weirder, louder, fatter and closer to the ground. Worse than watching movie stars mocking us with their eternal youth, though, is seeing a star's image change over the years.

Carol Kane, the lead in the camp horror film Office Killer, has undergone this kind of change. It's hard to forget her debut as a sweet faun of a hooker hired to relieve Randy Quaid of his virginity in The Last Detail. I read a stray piece of gossip (from Mel Brooks?) that Kane was, at the time of The Last Detail (1973), on some sort of reverse-vegan dietary kick, subsiding entirely on dairy products, especially cottage cheese. Seeing how albino-pale she was in those days, the tale is credible. She was--still is, if you rent the movie--an unusual beauty, and I should have predicted that she'd be doing horror films in 25 years.

Well, now it's 1998, and here is Kane as Dorine Douglas, a meek little murderess with painted-on eyebrows, the kind of too-tight coiffure that suggests Balkan beauty parlors and the deliberate enunciation of the true drip. It's a comic part--essentially, Agnes Gootch from Auntie Mame. The director, noted photographer Cindy Sherman, uses Kane's paleness for camp value in a typical serial-killer tale. Of course, the photography is artful, as one would expect from Sherman, but there is only one big idea in Office Killer: Kane's job, which pushes her to homicide, is at the dysfunctional Constant Consumer magazine. The rivalries and stresses of that kind of journalism are a believable way of goading Dorine into filling her basement with corpses preserved in various grisly ways. (I was pleased by one innovative murder of a mean asthmatic.)

Kane's co-star is Jeanne Tripplehorn, that great beauty with the asymmetrical face--horror movies for her by 2022, no doubt. Eric Bogosian has a bit part, in flashback, as an incestuous dad. Bogosian acts like he writes, far too loud and far too obvious. (How can people call Quentin Tarantino the world's worst actor while Bogosian thrives?) A gross, minor movie like Office Killer wears its underachievement proudly; it's too affected to get under your skin as true horror does. Sherman acts as if she had freshly discovered the feminist side of the murderess plot, without also discovering some way to make such an oft-filmed story fresh. It's a slummer's movie, and if I'm being dismissive and patronizing, it's just because I'm trying to reflect its dismissable, patronizing tone. Nothing in it is as creepy as seeing Kane turned into a crone.

Office Killer (Unrated; 82 min.), directed by Cindy Sherman, written by Tom Kalin and Elise MacAdam, photographed by Russell Lee Fine and starring Carol Kane and Jeanne Tripplehorn.

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From the January 22-28, 1998 issue of Metro.

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