Book vs. Film: Kiss Me Judas vs. Fractured
I'd love to see the Phineas Poe books adapted into movies as well.
Fun fact: a film maker actually adapted Kiss Me Judas into a film without permission from the author or publisher. Rumor is that the film is still floating around.
What?!?! How the hell had I not heard about this? To the internet! Dun nu nu nu nu nu nu nu nu (spinning LitReactor log).
Five minutes and $.99 later I had a previously viewed copy en route. The film is called Fractured, and it was "written" and directed by Danuta Klosowski.
The synopsis from the back of the DVD:
Val, who has just escaped from a mental institution, awakens in a bathtub full of blood and ice to find that a prostitute has stolen his kidney. A drug-hazed pursuit ensues as he wanders through the realms of sanity, determined to find his kidney before it's sold on the black market. When he finally encounters the prostitute she seduces him and he reluctantly joins her in a hallucinatory journey from the inner-city streets to the countryside to the depths of despair... and murder.
Sounds pretty fucking familiar, doesn't it? For those of you who've never read it, here's the synopsis for Kiss Me Judas:
Phineas Poe, disgraced cop and morphine addict, has just been released from a psych ward when he meets a beautiful woman named Jude in a hotel bar. Red dress, black hair, body like a knife. He takes her back to his room and wakes up the next morning in a bathtub full of blood and ice, missing a kidney. Falling for her is the start of a twisted love story that takes him from the snowy streets of Denver to the high plains of Texas, where the boundaries between torturer and victim, killer and accomplice, become nightmarishly distorted.
But wait, the devil's advocate amongst you says, this happens all the time. Look at Armageddon and Deep Impact, Dante's Peak and Volcano, The Truman Show and Ed TV. Kiss Me Judas is based on a popular urban legend. You can't lay claim to that.
Author and LitReactor member, Gordon Highland, had this to say:
I got it off Netflix upon its release and made a detailed log of its thieveries, utterly shocked by how it was ripped directly from the book, not vaguely "inspired by," and nary a mention of its source material. Several of us went on a campaign to get it killed (I started by going direct to their distributor—having the most to lose, I figured—whom I have to imagine were completely unaware of its plagiarism, followed by several other outlets), and whether it was through those actions or whatever the option-holding production company may have threatened (I know nothing specific), it vanished soon thereafter.
Gordon's log exists in the So this seems to be plagiarism at its finest thread over at The Velvet (which loads like shit for me, so good luck). It details entire scenes lifted word-for-word from Baer's novel. A partial list of said thieveries is also available on the IMDB message board for the film, courtesy of Craig Clevenger. Trust me-- the offenses are legion.
But the purpose of this column isn't to rehash what's already out there-- Instead, I intend to present an unbiased critique of the film, legal improprieties notwithstanding. See if the attacks on its quality were strictly ad hominem. I'm almost afraid to admit it, but part of me selfishly hoped it might actually be good. Or at least watchable. But deep in my heart I knew it wouldn't be. Because anyone with a shred of talent whose name isn't Quentin Tarantino wouldn't dare pull such a blatant rip-off.
One of the few revisions the "screenwriter" made was changing the character of Phineas (Val in the film) from an ex-cop to an ex-boxer. What was behind this so-called creative decision? Who the fuck knows. But in light of this, I feel it's appropriate to use a cliched boxing motif to set things up.
In this corner... weighing in at 288 pages... a novel that will smother your mother, and make your sister think it loves her... Will Christopher Baer's hallucinatory slow ride into hell... Kiss Me Judas! (The crowd roars.)
And in this corner... the challenger... an underdog who's tasted every boot in the room... an indie feature that got tired of begging for scraps and went for the whole steak... Danuta Klosowski's directorial debut... Fractured! (Boos fill the room.)
What is there to say about Kiss Me Judas that hasn't already been said? It is so bleak, so relentlessly soul-crushing, you wonder why anyone would read it in the first place. It's almost a masochistic experience. And just like Phineas can't quit Jude even though she's likely to be the death of him, you can't stop reading. It helps that the book is written like a throat-slash, every word honed to a razor's edge. You don't even feel the blade as it enters.
Then there's Fractured: an impossibly amateurish facsimile with negative production value and porno-grade acting. It looks like it was lit and photographed by a blind man and then edited by his seeing-eye dog. The film has no sense of pacing, within scenes or as a whole. It rips off tiny little details from the book, but lacks any of its depth or nuance. There isn't a single authentic emotional beat in the entire film. It also has awful, incongruous original music. (The tender kitchen-counter-sponge-down-dissolve-to-shirt-back-on scene at the 33 minute mark, for example.)
I call the acting porno-grade, but I have to apologize, because that's an insult to porn stars. Val is played by Christopher Trunell, a poor man's Jason Statham with Luke Wilson's demeanor. His delivery is either completely flat, like he is reading off cue cards, or whiny like a bitch. And as we all know, Phineas Poe ain't no bitch. Betty (the Jude character), is played by... oh who the fuck cares? We'll never hear from her again. She has the superficial trappings of Jude-- eye tattoo, red dress, teardrop necklace-- but none of her deadly charisma. There should be demented, co-dependent fireworks between these two characters, but Betty and Val have zero chemistry.
Then there's the Eve character. In Kiss Me Judas, Eve is an 18 year-old goth princess, experienced beyond her years. In Fractured, her character is named Mora, and is played by someone twice that age who has obviously had work done, squeezed into too-tight latex. And you know what? That would be fine, if they were changing the character to an overtly sexual cougar trying to extend her youth, but no, the filmmakers have the audacity to present Mora as 18! It just doesn't sell. Her performance is that of someone trying to remember what an 18 year-old acts like, but instead of being cool and detached like Eve is supposed to be, she just comes off as an obnoxious twat.
The misinterpretation of Baer's characters is indicative of the overall lack of experience of everyone involved. But in the interest of being fair and balanced, I suppose I have to mention any redeeming qualities this mess of a film might have. So here goes:
I will say this: The animated Orpheus and Eurydice sequence was pretty interesting. On its own, it's easily the most professional-looking part of the film. Of course, it doesn't really fit the tone of the film as a whole. Have Morgan Freeman narrate the thing and release it as a short and you might have something.
Which brings us to the ending.
STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN'T READ KISS ME JUDAS OR DON'T WANT THE ENDING OF A SHITTY MOVIE RUINED FOR YOU.
Here is where Danuta makes the biggest deviation from the source material. It's like she thought, as long as I change the end no one will noticed I plagiarized everything else. I'm sure Baer fans will hate it, but it's the only example of creative thought in the entire script.
Before they get to the hacienda of Luscious Gore (I forget what the they call him in the movie), Val freaks out on Betty, she tells him she never actually removed his kidney, and he shoots her in the head. BOOSH. (In the context of Fractured, this was so cathartic I cheered.) He then continues on to Gore's, and decides to donate his kidney to the man's dying son. If you forget Kiss Me Judas ever existed, and that Jude reappears in Hell's Half Acre, that's not a bad twist. Unfortunately, it's not enough to make up for the preceding 90 minutes of torture.
Basically, Danuta Klosowski butchered Kiss Me Judas like Isabel butchered that male prostitute trying to extract his kidney. She had no understanding of the tone of the book; she just cut and pasted. Any attempts at "making it her own" completely miss the mark. (I'm looking at you, horrible drug sequence set to playful woodwinds that includes a what-the-fuck banana sharing moment with Rose.) Her punishment should be to let people see the film in all its execrable glory. I wouldn't want her to profit from it, but the exhibition of this embarrassment would be analogous to a public shaming. Put her in the town square for all to laugh at. I doubt anyone would give her money to make another movie after that.
As if there was any question after all this, Kiss Me Judas dominates the competition like Mike Tyson in his prime (with a little of the ear-biting, face-tattooing Tyson thrown in for good measure). There is no reason outside of morbid curiosity to see this film. If you are some sort of glutton for punishment and absolutely MUST see Fractured, LitReactor is not responsible for any headaches, blurry vision, hysterical blindness, or rectal bleeding. We are also not responsible if Will Christopher Baer shows up at your house and punches you in the face. You have been warned.
To leave a comment