A creepy-crawly psychological thriller, SWEET MURDER boasts no big-name cast but delivers a full measure of nasty surprises and goosebumps. Much less contrived than the bigger-budgeted SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, SWEET MURDER will make prospective roommate-hunters gladly settle for solitary
Beginning with an unsettling pre-credits flashback, in which incestuous child abuse establishes the central character's adult motivation, SWEET MURDER suggests that a crippled childhood guarantees a half-lived adulthood. Jobless and friendless, drab Lisa (Helene Udy) eagerly welcomes new tenant
Laurie Shannon (Embeth Davidtz), who quickly befriends her wallflower roommate. Despite the warnings of her boyfriend Del (Russell Todd), wide-eyed Laurie pities her unlovable roommate and tries to build her self-esteem.
Lisa's long-suppressed homicidal impulses resurface when she learns that Laurie has inherited money from an aunt. Instead of feeling gratitude for a friend who even brings her along on dates, Lisa feels resentment and a desire to claim Laurie's good fortune for her own. Dolled up, Lisa seduces
Del and tries to inveigle him into killing Laurie and helping Lisa replace her. Willing to engage in intercourse but not murder, Del is first on Lisa's hit list. Dragging Laurie to Del's under false pretenses, she stabs her benevolent mentor to death and chops up the bodies of both her friends.
Although she disposes of the suitcases containing their remains down a mine shaft she recently visited on a country outing, Lisa soon has new human obstacles in her path. Since Laurie's lawyer Mr. Pearson (Michael McCabe) can identify the real Ms. Shannon, Lisa stabs him and torches him and his
car. When her dead mother's common-law husband (Danny Keogh) comes scratching at her door and blackmails her into a partnership, Lisa disposes of him but not before he reveals her true identity to a new attorney. After some cops fix her flat tire, a nervous Lisa takes suitcases full of corpse to
the mine shaft, where, haunted by visions of her victims, she loses her balance and plummets to her death.
Unrelenting in its bleak avoidance of happy endings, SWEET MURDER is a creepy morality play that warns against kindness to strangers. After eliciting our sympathy for the pathetic Lisa, the film makes us accomplices in her coldblooded plan. Ruthless in her desire to liberate herself from her
poverty, Lisa arouses a complicated response in the viewer. Although we realize she was victimized by her father as a child, we're stunned when she becomes a monster herself. Usually thrillers create characters to whom we react in a straightforward manner. But while we're shocked at Lisa's
gruesome betrayal of her friends, we actually understand her sociopathic desires--she's like the poor girl who refuses to be grateful for hand-me-downs from a rich relative. In addition to all the repercussions involved in that complex protagonist's plight, the film boasts a tightly structured
screenplay, excellent performances (especially by Davidtz), and some superb suspense set pieces. A little fine-tuning in the dialogue and sharper editing might have pushed SWEET MURDER into the front rank of psycho-chillers. Although the actors are all more than competent, they lack the edge that
full-fledged stars might have provided. Nitpicking aside, SWEET MURDER can really rattle a viewer's expectations. In its uncompromising vision, people can't escape the fate dictated by their personalities. Scarred in childhood, Lisa has no capacity for responding to kindness when it finally comes
her way. (Graphic violence, adult situations, nudity.)
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: A creepy-crawly psychological thriller, SWEET MURDER boasts no big-name cast but delivers a full measure of nasty surprises and goosebumps. Much less contrived than the bigger-budgeted SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, SWEET MURDER will make prospective roommate-hunter… (more)