Cult Killer Review: Alice Eve’s Tough as Nails in a Truly Disturbing Thriller

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Summary

  • Cult Killer shocks with a savage narrative of heinous crimes and disturbing imagery.
  • The film features richly developed characters, especially Alice Eve’s and a nefarious villain, explored through flashbacks and a surprise-laden plot.
  • However, the flimsy investigative elements lack backbone and strain credulity in an unrealistic world.


A private detective and his formidable apprentice match wits with a murderer targeting a twisted cabal of wealthy elites. Cult Killer shocks with a savage narrative of heinous crimes. A defiled survivor gets bloody revenge on truly despicable villains who will make your skin crawl with disgust. The film eschews excessive gore and nudity, but isn’t restrained in depicting sexual abuse with disturbing imagery. Its richly developed characters are explored in flashbacks that propel a surprise-laden plot. Cult Killer is fervently gripping and even impressively appalling despite a major flaw. There’s little backbone to flimsy investigative elements.

Mikhail Tellini (Antonio Banderas) walks into a Dublin, Ireland, bar on a mission. He’s been hired to follow a philanderer, but someone else catches his eye. The beautiful and drunk Cassie Holt (Alice Eve) chugs shots with a group of seedy men. They eye her hungrily as she takes their drinks but shoots down any advances. Cassie warns they’ll get nothing from her. They follow Cassie out of the bar, much to Mikhail’s annoyance. A good man, he won’t let her be victimized. The louts discover the hard way that Cassie can take care of herself.

Mikhail chastises her inebriated state after helping with the beat down. He knows how alcoholism can dull pain. What kind of life is she living? Five years later, Mikhail meets with Rory McMahon (Paul Reid), an old Interpol colleague and now an Irish police inspector, to discuss a baffling murder. Cassie’s called in to help dig up clues. Mikhail gave her sobriety, friendship, and purpose as his dedicated research assistant. But he also trained Cassie to shoot firearms and hone her martial arts skills. They’re in a dangerous business and must be ready for any situation. His prophetic words ring true as Cassie engages a vicious executioner (Shelley Hennig) who shares a traumatic past.


Alice Eve Makes a Formidable Apprentice

Cult Killer
Cult Killer

Release Date
January 19, 2024

Director
Jon Keeyes

Runtime
1hr 45min
Pros
  • Alice Eve is incredible as a wounded badass.
  • Cult Killer is unflinchingly brutal and unafraid to address pain honestly.
  • The antagonists and supporting characters are excellently constructed.
Cons
  • Cult Killer strains credulity and feels very unrealistic.
  • The mystery narrative is poorly constructed.

Cult Killer blindsides in a swift first act. Nothing is what it seems as Cassie struggles to understand what’s really happening in the case. Memories she worked diligently to bury erupt like a volcano as the body count grows. Cassie’s years of childhood molestation drove her to addiction and fortitude. She learned to physically defend herself when strong enough to fight an incestual fiend. Prolific director Jon Keeyes (American Nightmare, Rogue Hostage) shows her abuse as a frightened girl in bed as a door ominously opens and a drunken man enters. This scene replays in her mind as she uncovers the supposed antagonist’s motive.

Alice Eve will kick your ass and break a foot doing it. She delivers a nuanced performance as a woman who refuses to be a victim. Cassie’s warning to the drunks at the bar holds through to everyone who confronts her with ill-intent. She’s tougher than chewed leather but haunted by the awful events that shaped her. Mikhail and Rory are mightily impressed by Cassie’s grit and toughness, but also recognize her inner fragility. She’ll never falter under fire, but is clearly still in turmoil. Eve’s very good here and elevates the source material as a compelling protagonist.

Shelley Hennig nearly steals the show as an adversary who develops a complex relationship with Cassie. No spoilers, but what her character goes through is beyond horrific. She’s on the warpath for bloody comeuppance. No one will stop her merciless agenda. But a blind quest for vengeance leads to mistakes in the slaughter. Her inability to differentiate friend from foe draws an initial red line that becomes blurred for Cassie. She wants the abominable baddies suffering in prison, not six feet under, thus setting up an inevitable showdown between two similarly hurt women with radically different notions of justice.

The Cult Killer Taunts (Unrealistically)

The film glosses over important details that could have bolstered the plot. We see Mikhail tutoring Cassie in the investigative arts, but those skills are never used realistically. Cult Killer exists in a world without fingerprints, security cameras, digital tracking, or any criminal forensics. Today, every cell phone can be found in an instant. It strains credulity for a killer to taunt authorities on a city-wide rampage, yet somehow never be photographed or traced. Keeyes and screenwriter Charles Burnley (The Mechanical Grave, Doom Room) don’t spend enough time on the actual mystery. This is a big misstep after a serious effort by the filmmakers to handle ugly themes.

Cult Killer resonates with women striking back against their oppressors, but also has a primary female villain who’s beyond sadistic. Famed Irish actress Olwen Fouéré will send a shiver down your spine. She takes evil to stratospheric heights in a scene worthy of your worst nightmares. Even the most jaded genre fan will be aghast at her methods. Cult Killer pulls no punches at every hardcore turn.

Cult Killer is a production of Yale Entertainment, Buffalo 8 Productions, and Hail Mary Pictures. It is currently in limited theatrical release from Saban Films and Sony Pictures.

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