Cult Killer Movie Review | Banderas Stars in Fun but Forgettable Trashy Thriller

Cult Killer is a film about abused women hunting down and murdering paedophiles and gang rapists. Obviously, there are people who will immediately know this film is not for them, but even if the subject matter doesn’t automatically repel you, there’s a further warning sign when you look at the director, a man named Jon Keeyes. There’s no reason why Keeyes couldn’t deliver a sensitive, thought provoking, original movie about such troubling subject matter, but if you look at his Wikipedia page, he churns out films at a considerable rate, and the only paragraph of biography about him appears to have been written by the man himself, or at least on his behalf. None of this leads you to expect that his films will be classy affairs. And indeed, Cult Killer isn’t.

In fairness, the fact that Cult Killer insists on being about sexual abuse is its only real display of incompetence. There’s a lot about the movie that’s mechanically decent. It’s shot in a suitably gloomy, wintry fashion, without ever feeling unpleasantly dour. The story zips along, particularly once you’re past the first half an hour or so, and even considering there’s a series of flashback scenes that don’t really add anything to the story, and appear to exist mainly to maximise Antonio Banderas‘ screen time. But, listen, Banderas is an exceptional get for a film of this level, so it’s understandable. He’s perfectly fine throughout, but by far the best performances come from the film’s two chief villains, Olwen Fouéré as Dottie Evans, and Nick Dunning as her husband, Edgar. Dunning is tremendously slimy and unhinged and brings something resembling ‘fun’ to proceedings, whereas Fouére, an absolutely wonderful actress, is icy and utterly nightmarish as the entitled, remorseless matriarch of a sex trafficking ring.

Alice Eve, who plays Cult Killer‘s main character Cassie Holt, delivers a more uneven performance. It’s a tough task to play a recovering alcoholic and sexual abuse victim, reeling from the brutal murder of her beloved mentor and sponsor, attempting to track down his killer. She sticks the landing on most of the emotional beats, but it would be difficult for anyone to balance this with the sort of ham-fisted, wisecracking, bantering dialogue Cult Killer sometimes lapses into, and lines like a sarcastic “pretty please, with sugar on fucking top” just make you cringe when she delivers them. There’s very little Eve can do, however, about a scene in which she hacks into someone’s computer, to the accompaniment of backing music laced with an internet dial up tone. It’s not subtle. 

Stuff like this is what fatally compromises Cult Killer, because if a movie is going to revolve around such dark, upsetting themes, it’s going to have to be resolutely classy not just in the way it handles pretty much absolutely everything. Instead, Cult Killer is a pretty enjoyable, dumb, bloodsoaked thriller that intermittently lapses into graphic descriptions of people being chained up in hidden rooms and raped for days on end. To say it’s tonally jarring is an understatement. It’s not a movie that knows what it wants to be. Another less significant example of this is that it’s shot and is set in Ireland, but it doesn’t feel particularly rooted in any place with its conspicuously multinational cast. Paul Reid is the most prominent Irish actor on screen, playing about the sixth or seventh most significant role. If the action was located in England or America, nothing about Cult Killer would change other than the police officers in the background wouldn’t have ‘GARDAI’ emblazoned on their uniforms.


If you’re hankering for a gritty revenge drama and aren’t put off by all the nastiness previously mentioned, you could do worse than Cult Killer. It passes the time. But I just can’t picture the sort of person you’d actively recommend this film to. It’s nowhere near bad enough to be perversely enjoyable, but it doesn’t really hit the mark on any of the things it’s trying to do. It’s low budget, scrappy, trying hard, throwing out ideas, but it’s destined to be forgotten, and all things considered, that’s probably for the best.

Cult Killer is currently available on VOD via Rakuten and Apple TV

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