Sometimes, all it takes is an interesting poster and a fine-looking screencap to get intrigued by a film. I'd never heard of Killing God [Matar a Dios] before, neither was I familiar with its directors. Even so, the film gave off an odd vibe, which was all I needed to risk a little gamble. These gambles don't always pay off, but when they do it almost feels like discovering a hidden treasure. I'm not entirely sure why Casas and Pintó's Killing God failed to make a splash on the international stage, all I can say is that if this film finds the right audience, there's nothing stopping it from becoming a neat little cult favorite.
Killing God is categorized as comedy/horror, but that description doesn't do it a lot of justice. It's a dark comedy with a dash of urban fantasy and indeed some minor horror influences, but mostly it's for people who love black, quirky and slightly surreal comedies with a fantastical twist. I wouldn't be surprised if both directors were big fans of Álex de la Iglesia (The Last Circus and Witching and Bitching) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen), as Killing God feels well at home within that specific niche.
It's a bit difficult to talk about the film without spoiling too much, going in blind will definitely make it more fun though as Killing God packs quite a few neat surprises. So if you've already decided you want to watch this film, it's probably best to skip the rest of the review. If you're still on the fence, know that this is a film about life and death, more specifically about facing the impossible choice of who gets to live and who must die. That's exactly the situation four members of a slightly disjointed family will be facing on New Year's Eve, disrupting their already eventful evening.
Carlos and Ana rented a cabin for New Year's Eve and invited Carlos's brother and father to join their little party. But Carlos is feeling a little down after having read a suspicious text Ana's boss sent her. Ana insists nothing weird is going on between them, but Carlos can't let it go. Meanwhile, Carlos' brother is still mourning the break-up with his ex, while Carlos' father is recovering from the death of his wife. All this family drama that will soon prove to be completely inconsequential, as God himself is going to crash their party. He doesn't bring good news though, the whole of humanity is on the cusp of being wiped out. Only two people will survive, and they will have to decide between themselves who the lucky ones are.
Visually there's a lot to like here. Casas and Pintó did their utmost best to make the film look as atmospheric as possible. Warm reds hug the family members and the interiors, cold blues are used for the exterior scenes and any disruptive elements. The use of lighting is strong, quirky camera angles add a little playfulness and even the characters have a jolly, small-town appearance that fits the overall look. It may not be as visually intense and detailed as its biggest influences, but that's hardly a realistic benchmark. Killing God looks great from start to finish, which is what matters the most.
The soundtrack definitely adds to the fun. It's pretty moody, but also somewhat self-aware and a little overstated. It underlines the tongue-in-cheek tone of the film and it accentuates the comedy without becoming overly expressive. The best is saved for last, as the music that goes with the finale is surprisingly stylish and emotional. Where most of the film is just fun and games, the ending is a bit more ambitious and the soundtrack really reinforces that ambition. Maybe Killing God doesn't have the most memorable score, but it's a very valuable and effective one.
Performances are pretty great too. It's a small cast (five central characters and a handful of minor secondary ones) but everyone is on top of his/her game. The actors balance their performances on a fine line between dry delivery of lines and overemphasized body language, which really drives home the unique flavor of the comedy. And then there's Emilio Gavira, who delivers one of the most hilarious renditions of God I've ever seen on film. Props to the entire cast, who really managed to collectively sell this film.
Regardless its creative and goofy premise, Killing God is a rather slow and deliberate film. If the humor isn't working for you, it could quickly turn into a sluggish and boring affair. New information is only released sporadically and the directorial duo keeps the mysteries brewing as long as possible. It isn't until the very end that everything is revealed, but by then it's not so much about the outcome anymore, instead it's about the emotional weight that comes with the ending. It all worked perfectly for me, but I wouldn't be surprised if others ended up hating it.
Killing God is not the kind of film to draw a big audience, for that it's a little too particular. But people who love genre blends and enjoy peculiar comedy are almost certain to have a blast with this one. Pintó and Casas crafted a very meticulous, funny and intriguing film that looks great, sports a superb soundtrack and is sure to keep you guessing until the very end. You can simply taste the love for genre cinema in every little detail. Hopefully Pintó and Casas can continue down this road, either together or separately, but based on Killing God they've got the chops to succeed.