I liked Kiss the Girls, despite its flaws. I thought the acting
was generally good (by the two main leads, at least), and the story was
well scripted, even if it lost its "spookiness" after the first half.
The biggest problem lies in one of its red herrings, specifically,
the last one, and the acting of Carey Elwes. The copycat murderer
on the west coast was confusing, and even when I understood what was going
on, it seemed quite strange. It was not a total red herring, because
the west coast murderer showed up on the east coast again, to tell us (by
relating to Casanova) how they orchestrated the entire affair.
As for Cary Elwes, he spooked me out right away. It was
obvious that he was hiding something. And as far as I'm concerned,
he needed more motivation. The dialog at the beginning is just not
enough. "I watched the girls... then one night I showed them how
much they loved me." So he decided to become a cop in order to facilitate
the procedure? How did he get in contact with the west coast guy,
anyway? There are too many questions left unanswered.
Fortunately, there is a lot of good storytelling, and two very
strong lead actors, as well as a pretty good red herring, before those
questions even get asked.
We open the movie with the required scene showing us how good
detective Cross is. He talks down a woman who has a gun in her mouth,
after she killed her abusive husband. Then he arrives home, and finds
out that his niece Naomi has disappeared from her college campus.
He flies there, way out of his jurisdiction, and sits in on the investigation
of many girls like Naomi, who have also disappeared. Each one was
special, in that they were beautiful, very intelligent, and strong-willed.
The spookiest part takes place when Kate McTiernan is kidnapped
from inside her woodland home. The effect of the atmosphere, the
foreshadowing with the fish tank at the bottom of the stairs, and her shock
at having her home invaded are wonderfully done. She wakes up in
a cell, and learns she has been healed of her cuts (from the fish tank),
drugged, and that the kidnapper obviously plans to break her spirit, and
He shows up in a mask, so that nobody knows who he is.
But she fakes illness after eating a sandwich, and as he comes in to administer
her drug, she knocks him down (she's a practicing kick boxer) and escapes
in a terrified panic. If she had been thinking straight, she would
have locked him in her cell, and freed the other girls as well. When
she is revived in the hospital, she feels extremely guilty for not saving
the others. But she was panicked. She doesn't remember anything
except the wonderful daylight, not even jumping off the cliff into the
waterfall to escape the kidnapper.
The man calls himself Casanova, and has been punishing the women
in his group for breaking his rules, especially that they should not cry
out. Several have been found tied to trees, raped, with a lock of
their hair cut off. As punishment, Cross deduces.
As the search intensifies, Kate brings them to the woods, but
they don't find anything useful. Cross goes to Naomi's school and
finds out that a teacher seems to have a habit of getting to know "special
students" very well. Perhaps too well.
The drug that Kate was put under is traced to a researcher in
California, a continent away. They follow the man to his hideout,
and interrupt a murder. He gets away, but they raid his home, and
find pieces of women in a freezer, as well as newspaper articles and photos.
As Kate describes, his house is "too cold". They had suspected that
the murderer was operating on both coasts, but they now realize that there
are two of them, working together. One of the photos on the wall
is of Naomi's schoolteacher. They raid his house and find torture
machines, but he explains that he loves to make love to his beautiful students,
and they voluntarily enter into S&M rituals with him. He tempts
Cross with a description of his experience with Naomi, which drives the
cop over the edge. It is a nice contrast from the situation at the
beginning of the film. He was blinded to any possibility except that
this man was holding his niece. I do wonder what will become of the
lawsuit threat by the teacher, though. Likely it was a bluff, because
his position as professor would undoubtedly come into jeopardy if his affairs
Looking over old maps of the forest, and with Kate's help, they
find an abandoned underground residence. The west coast guy arrives
at the same time, and Cross enters, finding all the women tied to chairs,
and Naomi playing her cherished violin. Cross manages to kill the
west coast murderer, but Casanova escapes.
For some reason, the case seems to be over, as the police "are
confident that they'll find this guy soon." That makes everybody
happy, and they all feel safe. There is also a hint of romance between
Kate and Cross. This feels shoehorned in, as if the writers needed
a way to make Cross show up at the last minute. For the rural police
officer shows up to check in on Kate, and he begins conversing with her.
If we didn't know he was guilty before, the music lets us know the moment
he shows up. The lingering shots of her passing him a really big
knife only accentuate the fact that something's wrong. Then his conversation
becomes obsessive, with him describing how he watched her, sifted through
her garbage, and so on. That was really spooky, and I wished Cross
would show up.
Of course he does, but only after a brief struggle, where Kate
actually ends up handcuffing the man to her stove. I guess she didn't
think of the door, because he pulls the gas stove from the wall, and plans
to light the gas to kill them all.
This means that Cross cannot shoot the man, because the spark
from the gun will ignite the gas. So he lets the cop talk and tries
to talk him down. The cop must have seen the interrogation earlier
in the movie, because he tries to use the same trick: telling Cross how
good his niece was in bed. Cross shoots him, but through a carton
of milk, so that there is no spark. Seems to me that the spark would
occur where the hammer hits the bullet, not at the muzzle. But I
know nothing about guns, so I could very well be wrong.
The first half of the movie was pretty creepy, and made for an
effective thriller. The middle was more of a detective story, and
was pretty well done, too. The ending seemed like an attempt to avoid
any of the usual thriller clichés, but in doing so, it made the
story a little more complicated than it had to be. Regardless, I
can ignore the flaws, because the storytelling was so good. The acting
was also extremely good, assuming Cary Elwes was playing spooky on purpose.