Frightfest Glasgow: Kill Your Lover (2024)

Director: Keir Siewert, Alix Austin

Running Time: 77 Minutes

Starring: Paige Gilmour, Shane Quigley Murphy, May Kelly, Chloe Wigmore, Joshua Whincup

After a directorial career involving short films, anthology segments, and television shows, filmmaking duo Keir Siewert and Alix Austin make their feature-length debut with Kill Your Lover. The feature opens on a framed photo which depicts a seemingly happy moment between a couple, before an unseen person smashes it and then picks up a shard of glass from the shattered remains. As rock music plays over this opening sequence, viewers are left energized for what is about to unfold.

The film then cuts to Dakota (Paige Gilmour) staring straight into the camera, rehearsing a speech about how she wants to end her relationship with Axel (Shane Quigley Murphy). Her hope is to end things before their miserable relationship turns toxic, however the feeling is not mutual. Axel does not want to let go of the relationship, and finds himself transforming into something monstrous while succumbing to the poison of a decaying relationship.

By combining a breakup film with a slice of body horror, Austin and Siewert have crafted a unique genre take on relatable material. As the dour-looking present day mirrors this couple making each other miserable, it is tremendously contrasted with the vibrant looking flashbacks that shows the blossoming romance in all its colourful glory. The difference is further highlighted as similar scenes occur in both time-periods, playing out with a notably different mood. This is an example of the duo's interesting directorial choices, giving this feature an eye-catching personality on top of the compelling tale.

Dakota is previously shown as more free-spirited, with the rocker having a wall covered in photographs of her lovers, and a tattoo of her personal mantra that reads "everything is replaceable." This is a vast change from her more reserved self in the present, compromising to appease Axel to the point that her tattoo has been altered. Gilmour sells the change effectively, capturing somebody who has compromised her true self so much that she feels it is not considered good enough.

As the more controlling half of the relationship, Murphy effectively brings Axel alive without fear of him becoming a caricature, instead resembling an everyday toxicity which could cross our paths any day. He manipulates things to go his way, preventing the couple from having honest conversations as he guilt-trips Dakota into apologizing firstly, regardless of whether she deserves any blame. The metamorphosis just worsens Axel's toxic qualities, stubbornly refusing to accept reality if it does not go his way. An effective scene sees the character's rising anger come pouring out, leading him to strike in horrific ways.

The situation leaves Dakota worn down and fed up, resulting in the pair hurting each other through a mutual toxicity. While it is inevitable that the story would go this route, it does feel tragic as the flashbacks show a relationship once full of love. Moments like the consensual restraints, or the affectionate nicknames of "lover", feels believably personal to this once strong romance. What remains once that love fades are the performative smiles and seemingly perfect guises, with the film taking a look behind them to show that all is not as loving as it seems. As a much-needed openness and honesty brings the story to a resolution, Kill Your Lover cements itself as a triumphant example of what this filmmaking duo can do.

Kill Your Lover made its UK Premiere at Frightfest Glasgow 2024