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Karla
cast: Laura Prepon, Misha Collins, Patrick Bauchau, Cherilyn Hayres, and Emilie Jacobs

director: Joel Bender

98 minutes (18) 2006
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by James A. Stewart
Pick up a thesaurus, look up 'disturbing' and you will get many alternatives to this adjective but none that can possibly describe Karla aptly. The fact that it is based on true events only adds to weight of barbarism displayed by the film's two main protagonists, Karla Homolka (Laura Prepon) and Paul Bernardo (Misha Collins).

The aforementioned true events revolve around a series of murders and other brutal sex crimes in the early 1990s. Thus, the memories of their crimes are too fresh in the minds of the Ontario public for them to accept this movie with open arms. Indeed, a 2005 film festival in Montreal had to pull the film due to pressure from corporate sponsor, Air Canada. Others have slated timing of the film in North America as its release coincided with the end Homolka's 12-year prison sentence. The European release has come some two years later.

In some ways it almost seems as if director Joel Bender is attempting to disassociate Homolka from the crimes, portraying her more as a victim than an accomplice. Then, as the film moves on it becomes clear that it is only when the violence level rises against Homolka that she decides to cry for help, and to finally part from Bernardo. She may not have been an absolute willing abettor, but she certainly has the blood of teenagers on her hands. Prepon and Collins give convincing performances with Collins' portrayal of Bernardo at his most violent perhaps the high point of the piece. Meanwhile, Prepon shows Homolka to be selfish and without any empathy to her victims, a point that the interaction with her psychiatrist conveys strongly as he shows her to be unreliable in the recounting of the tale.

Cinematically, Karla is well shot, based around Homolka's meetings with Dr Arnold (Patrick Bauchau), and a series of flashbacks. The imagination is called into action to piece together the more harrowing scenes. Additionally, Tim Jones puts together a fine score to accompany the film, particularly in the opening credits where you could be forgiven for thinking you are watching a couple of lovebirds at play, that is until the music tells you there is something more sinister in the offing.

This is not a film to watch with the kids. This is not a film to watch if you are easily offended. It is not without historical and cinematic interest and will no doubt be success on the DVD market. The furore in some quarters is understandable; the timing of release in Canada was at best unfortunate or at worst a cynical ploy for publicity.
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