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Love Hurts: "Don't Kill Me" (2021) Review

Chill Clinton obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies in 2016 and has since worked as a professional writer.

Alice Pagani portrays Mirta, a teenage girl with a heroin addicted boyfriend, who wakes up after a fatal overdose, becoming a type of zombie-like creature with an insatiable taste for blood.

Alice Pagani portrays Mirta, a teenage girl with a heroin addicted boyfriend, who wakes up after a fatal overdose, becoming a type of zombie-like creature with an insatiable taste for blood.

Nihilism Decorated With Blood and Skin

What do you get when you take two star-crossed lovers from different worlds and an insatiable taste for human blood?

Twilight? Let The Right One In?

Not quite. And maybe this is the extent of what I have to say about this 2021 Italian horror-romance by Children of the Night director Andrea De Sica that released on Netflix in February 2022.

It's part romance, part revenge film, with a dash of nihilism that gives it a distinctly foreign feel, marked by dynamic changes between brutal violence and uncomfortably relentless and aimless sexuality.

Perhaps this sense of pointlessness lends itself to the experience our protagonist endures waking up to rejoin the world as a shadow of herself, unable to fully participate in the life she once knew, forced to commit brutal acts to remain "alive," and all the while being pursued by a secret society of those who hunt her kind.

However, it ultimately revels in this pointlessness while attempting to build a world that the film's narrative simply doesn't earn, leaving the audience wishing that the film had at least tried to take a meaningful stance on even its characters by the film's conclusion.

Mirta quickly learns that she cannot die again through conventional means, but that doesn't mean she isn't still in danger.

Mirta quickly learns that she cannot die again through conventional means, but that doesn't mean she isn't still in danger.

A Spoiler-Free Synopsis

This story about a teenage girl and her drug-addicted boyfriend starts with an almost "vampiric kiss" in which she begs him to dose her with a syringe of black heroin so she could feel closer to him. But this results in both of them overdosing and being laid to rest, side-by-side, in a graveyard... temporarily.

This is because, shortly after dying, Mirta wakes up and breaks out of her coffin, aimlessly walking about the world as she discovers why she has a compulsion to drink human blood, and why, if she doesn't, her body will decompose.

Along the way, she returns home, sending her mother into a shock-induced psychosis, mauls a creepy older guy at a night club, and learns that there is a cabal of people called "The Benedante" who hunt "overdead", or people who are reborn with the curse afflicting Mirta.

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After this, the young woman encounters another overdead woman named Sara, who instructs her not only about the limits of her abilities, but how to most ethically source victims by targeting murderers and other neerdowells.

However, Mirta's abilities and moral code are put to the test when she and Sara are captured by The Benedante, and Mirta learns a dark secret about how she became a member of the overdead, giving her a choice between to bleak paths to take from there.

Mirta's transformation from a shy and ineffectual young woman into a brutal monster from the shadows could have been stronger if it were kept simpler.

Mirta's transformation from a shy and ineffectual young woman into a brutal monster from the shadows could have been stronger if it were kept simpler.

A Needlessly Complex World of Meaninglessness

The film begins by proposing a number of interesting questions about what Mirta is, what the parameters of her existence are, and of course, why is she a member of the overdead. And as the film moves along, we discover the answer to many of these questions alongside Mirta as she walks about carefully decorated, dynamic settings from the middle of the woods to the basement of a neon-drenched nightclub.

Admittedly, the first act of this film was very promising. By splicing in dream-like sequences of Mirtas past as a living girl, we develop a greater appreciation for who she was, and more understanding for the monstrous thing she has become.

But somewhere along the way, this film begins pulling the perspective back to reveal this massive world, filled with new foes, romantic subplots that seemingly contribute nothing but excuses to insert macabre sex scenes, and a number of rules that feel important, but ultimately contribute nothing to the narrative or thematic advancement of the plot.

This even includes one scene involving a living acquaintance who inexplicably expresses feelings he holds so deeply that he is willing to literally kill himself for a chance to be with Mirta forever. But those who have ever seen Tomas Alfredson's Let The Right One In will notice an uncanny resemblance between this scene and one of the most iconic scenes from this Swedish modern vampire classic.

And as someone who includes Alfredson's film in my list of some of the best horror films ever made, I understand why someone making a film like this would be interested in paying homage through their own work. However, this scene is so blatantly similar it begs the question whether this pointless and short subplot was written in for no other reason than to include this instance of near-plagiarism that lacks any of the same depth and impact as the original.

"Don't Kill Me" feels like it should be a character piece, but somewhere along the way, it loses interest in its characters, and so do we.

"Don't Kill Me" feels like it should be a character piece, but somewhere along the way, it loses interest in its characters, and so do we.

Final Thoughts

I realize that this is a common criticism with many of these darker dramas that fall short of realizing their own premises, but Don't Kill Me feels like the kind of film I would watch as a teenager and think "Wow that was deep."

But ultimately, the decisions Mirta makes by the end of the film, marking a transformation of her character, don't feel earned. This can largely be blamed on the film's wild detours after the first Act. As the bleak character-piece devolves into an almost strange and sexy action film that loses sight of its characters, it simply forces its characters to fulfill the roles they ought to play rather than provoking them to behave in a manner explained by the events that precede the climax.

While this film isn't completely without merit, the film's first act feels like an entirely different and significantly better movie than its latter majority. Watching it became a practice in managing growing disappointment in a film that slowly lost its way as it tries to convince its audience to believe that the protagonist has found hers.

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