Say what you will about Lindsay Lohan's erratic and admittedly sad recent troubles with the law, but her mature, poignant performance in "I Know Who Killed Me" is the latest proof that the girl has talent. If she can get some sense knocked into her and focus on putting her life back on track, she could go on to have a long and successful acting career. A true testament to her abilities is that, save for a few unavoidable life-imitating-art reminders, Lohan so effortlessly slides into her multiple characters that the viewer forgets all about the baggage being carried behind her.
As for the film itself, it's not that "I Know Who Killed Me" is a great work of art. It isn't, and the more one thinks about it after the fact, the more the seams start to show. Even so, director Chris Sivertson and screenwriter Jeff Hammond deserve credit for tackling a project unlike any other to be released this year. Defiantly turning their backs on all things cookie-cutter, Sivertson and Hammond have crafted a lurid erotic thriller, a dark and violent horror-mystery, and a spookily whimsical fairy tale all in one.
Community college student Aubrey Fleming (Lindsay Lohan) is a serious-minded aspiring writer who disappears without a trace, leaving the quiet suburban town of New Salem in fear that she is the latest victim of an on-the-loose killer. A few weeks later, she is miraculously discovered alive alongside a road, one of her forearms and one of her legs so badly mutilated that they require amputation. As the police detectives attempt to unravel the crime and profile the culprit, they face an additional obstacle in the young woman's insistence that she isn't Aubrey at all, but Dakota Moss, a parentless exotic stripper straight from the school of hard knocks. Aubrey's concerned parents, Susan (Julia Ormond) and Daniel (Neal McDonough), believe their daughter is suffering from a form of amnesia, but Dakota refuses to accept that the very different life she has led is simply a figment of her imagination.
"I Know Who Killed Me" plays with conventionsa jump scare here, a red herring therebut isn't conventional, and the highlight of the entire enterprise is the seductive and haunting visual scheme. The images, flooded in deep blues and reds, are vibrant and just plain gorgeous, turning even empty moments into chances to aesthetically wow the viewer. Production designer Jerry Fleming (2006's "Crank
") has outdone himself, giving the sets a real yet quirkily off-kilter moodiness. The cinematography by John R. Leonetti (2007's "Dead Silence
") is some of the best in months, the fluidity, assuredness and imagination of the camera movements favorably bringing to mind old-school Brian De Palma and John Carpenter. Another standout scene in which the camera follows the floating petals of a flower into a bedroom mirror, past an owl, and down to a tranquil wooded stream is (1) singularly beautiful and (2) like something out of 1986's "Labyrinth" or 1984's "The Company of Wolves." Meanwhile, the stormy music score by Joel McNeely (2003's "Uptown Girls
") pulsates with the incessant tone and energy of Alfred Hitchcock-era Bernard Herrmann.
The dialogue and plotting are unfortunately not at equal footing with the movie's style. The story's developments, though unpredictable and certainly intriguing, are preposterous even by the standards of the thriller genre. The climax, as exciting as it does get, is overly convenient. Conversational exchanges between characters occasionally feel forced, which may be the reason for the stilted acting from the normally reliable Julia Ormond (2006's "Inland Empire
") and Neal McDonough (2007's "The Hitcher
"). Ormond and McDonough lack chemistry both as a couple and as the parents of Aubrey; the emotional distance might be intentional since they are dealing with someone whom they are not even positive is really their daughter, but there's something still off about what they do with the roles.
By comparison, Lindsay Lohan (2007's "Georgia Rule
") commands the screen as the more reserved Aubrey and shows off her range in the culminating scenes as the damaged, sexually uninhibited Dakota. For what it's worth, Lohan's stripteases and pole-swinging theatrics at the gentleman's club are notable for being genuinely steamy, sleekly shot and choreographed, and suggestive in their surroundings of the seediness and underlying perils that go along with such a job.
"I Know Who Killed Me" will likely go down in history as the stripper movie released the same week that Lindsay Lohan was charged with her second DUI in six weeks. Distributor TriStar Pictures must think just as much, since they released it without advance screenings for critics, but the film does not deserve such dubious distinctions. Blemished though it is and prone to a handful of leaps in logic, the enthralling, elegantly mounted "I Know Who Killed Me" should instead be thought of as the film that reiterates what many know to be true: for all her real-life foibles, Lohan is a chameleonic young actress with a rare depth and intuition to equal her captivating screen presence.