A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Deals with abuse and the choices connected to it—it's described in terms of "fighting/defeating the monster" or "becoming the monster." The movie demonstrates great empathy to abuse survivors and their struggles, including not being heard or believed. And it shows that kindness and support are far healthier and more effective than anger and revenge.
Positive Role Models
Cassie Holt, who suffered years of abuse by her stepgrandfather, studied self-defense in college and fought back. She began to abuse alcohol but successfully becomes sober and starts a meaningful job helping others. She can handle herself in seemingly any situation, though she still feels flawed and human. She continues to work for the side of good, insisting that justice be served rather than revenge. But there's an ambiguous ending that suggests she might have made a difficult and not exactly lawful choice.
The main character, a White woman (Alice Eve), is a survivor of abuse who makes her own choices in the world. Her mentor—who's killed but is seen throughout the movie in flashbacks—is played by Spanish actor Antonio Banderas. Other women characters are in positions of power, including villains. People of color appear only in supporting or background roles.
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Violence & Scariness
Dialogue about children being abducted, held prisoner, abused; photo albums and video evidence shown. Deaths. Guns and shooting. Characters are stabbed multiple times. Bleeding, gory wounds and blood spurts. Beheaded corpse with lots of blood. Severed head thrown down a chimney. Women are grabbed, slammed against a car, kicked in the crotch, punched in the face, kicked in the face, and sprayed with pepper spray, screaming in agony. Other characters are repeatedly beaten with a baton and a tire iron (with a smashing, gurgling sound), stabbed in the face, punched in the crotch, held in an armlock, and smashed in the nose. Character bites a woman in the throat, latching on until she dies (squelching sounds). Recurring flashback shows an unseen abuser (carrying a liquor bottle) entering a young girl's room. Small room where children held prisoner shown, with cuffs and chains attached to walls. Character doused in gasoline and threatened with a lighter. Character asks for assisted suicide. Dialogue about a young boy accidentally choked to death. Descriptions of cruelty and abuse and other violent acts.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A woman wears a skimpy outfit and flirts with men in a pub in order to get them to buy her free drinks. A married character is caught having an affair. Brief sex-related dialogue. Photo of naked person; only the curve of a buttock is visible.
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Constant, extremely strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "p---y," "goddamn," "bitch," "son of a bitch," "bastard," "twat," "pr--k," "ass," "hell," "douche bag," "d--khead," "ballsy." Exclamatory use of "Christ" and "Jesus Christ."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Main characters are recovering from alcohol dependency (AA is mentioned). Main character drinks heavily in a pub; shots and beers. Character wakes up, empty bottle beside bed, clearly hung over. Social drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Cult Killer is a thoughtful, well-told, but mature crime drama about a private investigator (Alice Eve) with a history of abuse who stumbles on a sadistic kidnapping ring and a vengeful killer. Violence is frequent and graphic, with gun use, stabbings, bloody/gory wounds, blood spurts, women brutally kicked and beaten, a beheaded corpse, a severed head, a character getting beaten repeatedly with a tire iron, a woman being pepper-sprayed (she screams in agony), someone biting a woman in the neck (with awful, squelching noises), and much more. There are descriptions of a kidnapping ring abusing children and holding them hostage. Language is extremely strong, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "p---y," "goddamn," "bitch," "son of a bitch," "bastards," etc. Characters are in recovery from alcohol dependency, and there are scenes of drinking and drunkenness, hangovers, and social drinking. Expect a few minor sexual situations and some sex-related dialogue. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This low-budget crime drama is far from a throwaway B movie. It never shies away from dark, brutal, but altogether human material, and it's unexpectedly rich in character and intelligent in execution. Coming from director Jon Keeyes, whose movies are usually throwaways, Cult Killer is unexpected. (It's the feature debut of screenwriter Charles Burnley.) It gives us characters with complete backstories and in-depth motivations, and the actors are blessed with plenty to work with. Alice Eve gives a measured, thoughtful performance as Cassie, perhaps the finest work of her career to date. Her scenes with Banderas—layered in as well-placed flashbacks throughout—feel utterly organic, as if they were merely talking rather than acting.
The plot moves smoothly and confidently, and even though the sadistic villains are almost too evil to be real, the movie makes them feel real. The third act last-minute, race-against-time climax unfortunately smacks of cut corners, but the movie saves itself with a gratifying ending. Above all, while Cult Killer gets quite dark, it manages to view victims of abuse with tenderness and empathy, and it's a surprisingly effective work.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.