Serial killers, at least in the movies, used to be objects of disquieting awe. Tony Curtis’ tormented sex murderer in The Boston Strangler, the sado-snuff fetishists of Manhunter and The Silence of the Lambs, Kevin Spacey’s cat-and-mouse psycho in Seven — in each case, we were asked to crawl inside the sick cave of a killer’s mind and to view his most unspeakable kinks as a nightmare reflection of ”ordinary” passion.
By now, though, even these artful thrillers have spawned their own clichés. When Ashley Judd, the heroine of Kiss the Girls, gets dragged to an underground dungeon, where she’s locked up along with a dozen other damsels, the setting is as ripely corny as any fogbound horror-movie trope of the ’30s, and so, in its way, is the homicidal phantom’s ”creepy” operatic spiel about his desire for perfect love. (We get it: He’s not talking about love.) Judd is able to escape, at which point she joins forces with forensic investigator Morgan Freeman. Kiss the Girls is a fake psychological thriller that turns into a garishly schlocky and implausible bogeyman hunt. Why, for instance, can’t the FBI locate the dungeon from which Judd has escaped? Because in their meticulous search of the forest, the agents somehow fail to find … those big wooden basement doors to hell. C