13th Jun2024

‘Kill Your Lover’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Paige Gilmour, Shane Quigley Murphy, May Kelly, Chloe Wigmore, Joshua Whincup | Written and Directed by Alix Austin, Keir Siewert

[NOTE: With the film now available in cinemas and on digital in the US, here’s a reposting of my review from this year’s Glasgow Frightfest]

Dakota and Axel’s relationship is a toxic mess. She knows it, everybody does… except Axel. The only thing is, until Dakota tries to break up with Axel, she doesn’t know how truly toxic it will become. The mere idea of splitting up causes Axel to become intensely ill, sprouting grotesque black veins and excreting a strange sticky liquid. His touch burns flesh and his need to hang onto Dakota becomes irrationally powerful. Nobody is going to take her away from him, not even the paramedics that Dakota calls to deal with Axel’s rapidly worsening condition. The two grapple with what remains of their once passionate relationship – and how what was built on sexual passion and punk rock could end with blood spilt, lives lost and at least one heart broken, literally.

Brit horror Kill Your Lover is, at its core, a heavy-handed allegory/visual metaphor for a toxic relationship and a hard break up; all wrapped up in what is a grisly body horror which helps cover what is essentially a short story, spun out to feature length by drawn out fights between the warring couple.

Kill Your Lover is held together by its two central characters, Dakota and Axel, played by Paige Gilmour and Shane Quigley Murphy respectively, who carry the film on their shoulders in what is essentially a two-person story set in a flat (with scream queen May Kelly appearing in some scenes as Dakota’s best friend Rose).

The film cuts back and forth between the present, where their relationship is breaking down and the past, where the duo are madly in love with each other. In the flashbacks it really does feel like Gilmour and Murphy have some serious chemistry and the dichotomy between those scenes set when the relationship was burgeoning and those set now, when it’s breaking down, is visible in the performances – both become standoffish to one another, the tenderness of touch replaced by looks of scorn and disgust.

Speaking of disgust, the effects work in Kill Your Lover is the true highlight. There’s a real “ickiness” to the effects, which mixes Venom-esque black veins with slimy gel and chemical-like burns that look as painful as they are supposed to feel. It harkens back to the slimy effects of Cronenberg and there are a couple of points at which the film really goes for the gore – one of which has a remarkable shock factor. The downside of those effects? Using the aforementioned black veins as a visual metaphor for HiS toxicity coming to the fore was a bit too on the nose…

**½  2.5/5

Kill Your Lover is available now in cinemas and on digital platforms, in the US, from Dark Sky Films.


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