Ingrid Jungermann’s Women Who Kill
There is an irrational level of trust when you enter a new romantic relationship. You meet someone, a stranger, and you start hanging out with them, at first in public, but you eventually bring them into your home, tell them your secrets, you turn over your banking information… I’ve seen Stepfather. Yeah, it could be love, but it could also be the long con. It’s all flowers and sunshine until Terry O’Quinn is trying to take out your family with the big one from the knife block. You also have to trust yourself to use your best judgment at your most emotionally compromised. You have to be cool and not scare off your new potential soul mate with your fear of intimacy or your totally valid theory that they can murder you in your sleep. Mixed up in the internal, hormonal cocktail that is new love is a lot of risk and doubt, and dare I say, danger.
Ingrid Jungermann’s Women Who Kill is the perfect encapsulation of those new-love jitters. The lead character, Morgan (Jungermann) is trapped somewhere in between a love story and a cautionary tale. It’s a rom-com/murder mystery that will get you laughing and giving your loved one the side eye.
Morgan is a serial killer aficionado with a wildly successful true-crime podcast which she co-hosts with her fellow murderer enthusiast and roommate, Jean (Ann Carr), who is also her ex. This is an arrangement that is nuts to straight people. A hetero-normative couple breaks up, and someone has to find all new friends. But with the gay community, there are just not enough new friends to go around, so Morgan is left on the couch sharing popcorn with her ex wondering if they spend too much time together. Morgan is driven to distraction, however, when she meets the sultry and mysterious Simone (Sheila Vand), who is new in town and totally into Morgan. Morgan begins the process of folding her new girlfriend into to her social circle, which is a process that is equal parts distance and being awkward in groups. Some astute observations from her friends, not the least of which is Jean, starts Morgan wondering - who is Simone, really? Their romance is storybook for sure, but is that book by Nora Roberts or J.D. Robb?
Jungermann’s highly acclaimed script, which is currently up for an Independent Spirit Award, delves into the psychology of starting a relationship and being a serial killer, and there are some striking parallels. They begin with pursuit and grooming, they require passion and proximity, and both are open to comment and speculation by anyone not involved. Annette O’Toole plays Lila, a serial killer being interviewed by Morgan and Jean for their Women Who Kill podcast. Even chained to a table, Lila feels volatile, like her words are laced with poison. Lila talks about strangling someone to death like Nigella Lawson talks about cheesecake. You know you shouldn’t, but she makes it sound so good. Sheila Vand, from Girl Who Walks Home Alone at Night and 68 Kill, has the indie market cornered for dangerously hot femme fatales. Simone has Morgan and the audience guessing – she loves Morgan completely, but does she also want to wear her skin like a suit?
It’s Morgan’s circle of friends that give Women Who Kill the heart, humor and perspective. They are the kind of friends who know Morgan too well and love her too much to be at all considerate. When introduced to Morgan’s hot new girlfriend, they are totally embarrassing and a little bit rude, but who can you introduce your hot new girlfriend to, your family? You’d rather she murder you. Ann Carr and Ingrid Jungermann play the will-they-won’t-they, bickering exes with an earnestness that is hilarious. Jean has let her interest in criminal psychology leak over to her former lover, and she treats Morgan’s failed love-life like a crime scene – it was Morgan with a lack of communication in the conservatory! And then there is the adorable, engaged odd couple of Alex and Kim, played by Shannon Patricia O’Neill and Grace Rex. Alex is lovingly trying to bully Morgan into getting back with Jean with the ulterior motive of getting to hang out more, and Kim is just being sweetly open about her own questionable past. We should all be so lucky to have friends who love us enough to humiliate us in front of dates.
Women Who Kill artfully balances the romantic comedy with the murder mystery. The two genres require a fair amount of suspense, but while a rom-com calls for an ending that satisfies, a mystery needs an ending that subverts expectations and Jungermann gives you both. As a person who really loves a sweet movie with kissing in it, but still wants to keep her film-nerd street cred, the indie scene has been killing it as of late with films like The Lobster, Results, The Big Sick, and now Women Who Kill. It’s about time that we started taking convention out of romantic cinema, because love is anything but conventional.