It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
What we desire is not a happy ending, so much as closure. That often means simply that a film knows what it thinks about itself. “The Killer Inside Me” is expert filmmaking based on a frightening performance, but it presents us with a character who remains a vast empty lonely cold space. The film finds resolution there somewhere, perhaps, but not on a frequency I can receive.
Michael Winterbottom's film is inspired by a 1952 pulp novel by Jim Thompson, perhaps the bleakest and most unrelenting of American crime novelists. The book is considered by some his finest work; other Thompson novels were filmed as "The Grifters," "The Getaway" (1972), "After Dark, My Sweet" and "Coup de Torchon." Stephen King wrote: “Big Jim didn't know the meaning of the word stop. There are three brave lets inherent in the forgoing: he let himself see everything, he let himself write it down, then he let himself publish it.”
What Thompson saw in his character Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) was a mild-spoken, intellectual psychopath with no understanding of good and evil. He murders people he loves, while loving them, and has no idea why. The story's insights into this seem limited to the title. There is a killer inside him. The killer is not him. He doesn't understand that killer. He has no control over him, and no doubt sincerely regrets the killer's crimes.
The story is set in west Texas in the early 1950s. Lou Ford, narrating his own story, is a deputy sheriff in a rural town. He still lives in the home where he was raised. In the evenings, he plays classical piano, reads books from his father's library and plays opera recordings.