The Horror Honeys: Slasher Hexmas: Pray You Don’t Meet His Alter Ego

Slasher Hexmas: Pray You Don’t Meet His Alter Ego

A Sci-Fi Honey Slasher Hexmas Review by Katie

Mr. Brooks (2007)

Mr. Brooks opens with the Serenity Prayer, a three-line invocation embraced by twelve-step addiction programs to ground oneself and suppress the urge to give into temptation: “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The desperate recitation is spoken by our (anti)hero, Mr. Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner), devoted husband and father, respected businessman, and recent recipient of the Portland Chamber of Commerce’s Man of the Year award. But Mr. Brooks is not an alcoholic, a dope junkie, or a sex fiend… Mr. Brooks is addicted to bloodshed, and the monkey on his back is murder. In one of his darkest roles to date, Costner portrays a man who is continually at war with himself, battling the black-hearted desires that threaten to overtake him completely. This conceit is a middle-aged take on Dexter Morgan; a psychopathic killer who knows he is unable to overcome his compulsion, so he must give into it with careful forethought. But what happens when a meticulous serial murderer is driven to breaking his own rules?

Charming, handsome, and exhibiting sharp business acumen, Mr. Brooks seems to have it all: a successful livelihood, a beautiful and devoted wife (Marg Helgenberger), and a daughter, Jane (Danielle Panabaker), who has recently dropped out of college to establish herself in the family business. Mr. Brooks has one hang-up, however, and it is personified in the form of Marshall (William Hurt); the human incarnation of Earl’s tortured psyche who follows his every move like a parasite, begging to be indulged. A walking and talking ‘Id,’ Marshall represents the perverse predilections within Mr. Brooks, stating with unabashed glee: “I like eating, I like fucking, I like killing!” Having succeeded in keeping Marshall at bay for two years by attending twelve-step meetings, Earl’s murderous alter ego surfaces to claim two more victims as Portland’s notorious “Thumbprint Killer.” Things get worse when Mr. Brooks learns that his crime has been witnessed by a budding psychopath (Dane Cook), and a tenacious detective (Demi Moore) is getting closer to bringing him to justice.

Marshall is also an annoying backseat driver.
Jane’s reemergence in his life, too, complicates things for Mr. Brooks considerably. Her departure from college coincides with a grisly on-campus murder, something that the local police have come to question her about. Through an implication uttered by Marshall, Mr. Brooks immediately assumes that Jane is guilty of the crime, and that she inherited her psychopathic tendencies from her serial killer father. His decision to forego his usually thoughtful killing ritual in order to save the fate of his daughter proves his love for her, but it also highlights his worst fear: that she will grow up to become like him. The truth that lies at the heart of this scenario is left purposely ambiguous, allowing the viewer to contemplate their own version of events – is Jane following in her father’s footsteps, or is Mr. Brooks simply governed by guilt and self-loathing of his darkest desires?

Like daddy, like daughter.
For all the intriguing things already going on in Mr. Brooks, the film suffers under the crushing weight of various other subplots that pad the runtime unnecessarily: that of the aforementioned murder enthusiast, Mr. Smith (Dane Cook), and their adversary, Detective Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore). Dane Cook’s role is one of the oddest casting missteps in movie history, and his presence onscreen is an exercise in tedium compared to the dramatic intensity of Costner and Hurt. Moore’s role is even more of a throwaway endeavor, as many attempts to add depth to her character bring very little dimension to the central plot. A handful of scenes needlessly focus on her character’s contentious divorce proceedings, and even more time is spent on her tracking down an escaped convict that has nothing to do with the crimes of the Thumbprint Killer. Almost everything associated with either Cook or Moore feels superfluous and comes to a futile resolution, which may have to do with Mr. Brooks initially being conceived as a television series or a film trilogy. If the world of these characters had been expanded to fill more than one film, their presence here is forgivable; but as it stands, Mr. Brooks feels inordinately stacked with too many subplots for what should’ve remained a tightly drawn serial killer thriller.

These two belong in a different movie.
The most compelling aspect of Mr. Brooks, by far, is the relationship between the titular character and who Dexter Morgan would call his “Dark Passenger,” Marshall. Costner and Hurt are two of the most nuanced and subtle actors of their generation, but as Mr. Brooks and Marshall, both have the opportunity to play off each other in refreshingly maniacal (and sometimes comical) ways. There are times when Marshall comforts Mr. Brooks, and embraces him as he weeps; other times, he cracks a rude joke and both laugh at the absurdity of it all. It is through this relationship that the film is able to reflect most deeply on its central character, and also hold up a mirror to the viewer. Writer/director Bruce A. Evans brilliantly channels the story of a serial killer through an addiction narrative, which gives the audience something they can all relate to on a very basic level. Whether any of us are struggling with the temptation to take one more drink, or slashing someone’s throat -- we’ve all got our poison, and our personal demons to contend with.

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: Four murderous alter egos out of five.

Mr. Brooks is available via iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube VOD, Vudu, Google Play, & blu-ray/DVD

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