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[Glasgow FrightFest]: Kill Your Lover

Directed by duo Alix Austin and Keir Siewert, Kill Your Lover is a triggering body horror depicting the breakdown and final moments of a horrifically toxic relationship. Interspersed with flashbacks to the early days, as well as moments when the red flags were raised, the film is an extensive metaphor for what it's like to exist in a constant psychological ticking time bomb.

Dakota, played by Paige Gilmour, is a fun-loving, free-spirited punk rocker who, after initially being only in search of a no strings-attached situationship, falls hard for the charming Axel, played by Shane Quigley-Murphy. What originally presents itself as a loving relationship for the pair, soon starts to display cracks in the foundations. As Axel moves in with Dakota, he begins to exhibit increasingly controlling, manipulative and gaslighting behaviour, including removing and isolating Dakota from her friends and slowly chipping away at not only her identity but the confidence she has within herself. 

After Dakota eventually takes the steps to walk away from Axel and terminate their incredibly damaging relationship, it awakens in Axel a monster which threatens both of their lives, and worst of all, the monstrosity that is coursing through Axel’s veins, is contagious.

Despite the possibility of the subject of toxic relationships and domestic abuse being handled in a stereotypical and clumsy manner, Kill Your Lover depicts the situation powerfully, with the emotions involved at its core, whilst still presenting a terrifyingly tense monster horror movie. The incredible practical effects perfectly encapsulate a physical representation of toxicity, with its insidious beginnings, eventually exploding with poison and vitriol. The element which strikes especially poignantly is that one of the monstrosities’ infecting the pair is its ability to burn with a touch. A symbol of how abuse contaminates and permanently scars everyone and everything it comes into contact with. What was once a loving touch, is now a painful and violent experience. 

Filmmakers Austin and Siewert have contained the movie within the single domestic location, indicating how very rarely is the toxicity shown outside of the home, and despite the bright natural lighting in the house, have created an almost haunted house, where even the walls show signs of the abuse tolerated within the relationship. Gilmour and Quigley-Murphy provide potent and impassioned performances of a couple trapped in a cycle of trauma, with Gimour perfectly portraying a woman desperate to escape and gain the ability to breathe and just ‘be’ again without fear of retribution or humiliation. Quigley-Murphy puts in a nuanced turn as Axel, an unnerving performance that even leaves viewers feeling as if they are on eggshells, yet with the implications that the character himself is suffering from a lack of emotional intelligence and suffering from the effects of toxic masculinity and insecurity as well. 

Kill Your Lover is an important work of cinema in its depiction of the dangerous consequences of abusive and toxic relationships. Its horror lies in how a certain type of relationship, although so easy to fall into and seek comfort, can also effortlessly create monsters out of any of us.

5 out of 5


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