It is difficult and probably pointless to watch "I Know Who Killed Me" and not think about all of Lindsay Lohan's personal problems this past year. When the DVD was loading and the obligatory boilerplate warning about the commentary track came up my mind immediately started a riff about Lohan doing such a track, wailing and moaning about how everybody is out to get her and wondering why nobody likes her. The movie cost $12 million to make and grossed $7 million, but even though pretty much nobody went to the theater to see it last summer I am sure the studio will make back its money on those of us who rent it just to see the final nail in Lohan's acting career (maybe not forever, but at least for the foreseeable future). I have the nasty suspicion that more people who hate Lohan will buy a copy of "I Know Who Killed Me" than will her fans.
Lohan plays Aubrey Fleming, a budding pianist and high school student who disappears after a football game. Several young women have been abducted from the area lately and the police suspect a sadistic serial killer who has been maiming his victims, which worries Aubrey's parents (Julia Ormond, Neal McDonough), and her boyfriend, Jerrod (Brian Geraghty). The opening act of the movie fast forwards what would be your basic torture porn horror film to get to the point where Aubrey is found, but when she wakes up in the hospital and is confronted with the extent of her mutilation, she insists she her name is Dakota Moss (a poorly chosen name since it invites comparisons to both Dakota Fanning and Kate Moss that do nothing for Lohan). I find this to be a rather interesting premise, to have a victim so traumatized by what has happen to them that they take refuge in another persona. But this 2007 film wants to play with the idea that there is another explanation for what is going on here; in fact, it offers a couple of different hypotheses.
Lohan's performance is pretty bad, which I think has to do with the fact that she is badly miscast here. This film is also hurt by the scenes of Dakota as an exotic dancer because there is no nudity and the eroticism displayed by Lohan at the club is less than you would expect form a made for TV movie. This ain't Demi Moore embracing her role in "Striptease," that is for sure. By the time Dakota shows up for a pole dance with nipples painted on her bustier, I was wondering if maybe the point is not that this is bad girl Dakota dancing but good girl Aubrey's simplistic idea of what dancing at a strip club is like. The film's sex scene is quite bizarre for several reasons (e.g., the comic counterpoint with the mom cleaning the kitchen sink), but the paradoxical nature of sex in this film comes up again as her character keeps her bra on for most of it (something that is quickly becoming a cliche in movies). I find this ironic, because I would double down on a bet that the next time Lohan appears on film she is going to have to do actual nudity because her next offer will be an exploitation film that fames this one look like classic cinema (i.e., yeah, it can get worse, Lindsay, a whole lot worse).
The torture porn scenes are disquieting, but ultimately wrong for this movie, which needed to be done more in the Hitchock tradition than that of Eli Roth or whoever Chris Sivertson is trying to emulate. Even then, I am not sure if that would work for a film that really is an exploitation film at heart, by which I mean that it is a twisted tale of the sort that exists only in grindhouse cinema. If the story were the story here, instead of the lead actress, then maybe this movie would work better, but the movie is saddled with Lohan and the tragic farce her life has become, which overshadows such mundane concerns as whether anybody in the local police department ever bothered to check fingerprints. But the story by novice screenwriter Jeff Hammond does try to do something different, and even if it ultimately fails in that regard it should at least be considered on its own merits. The problem becomes that it takes us a long while to become convinced that this movie is about what it ends up being about; I was into last act before I finally understood it really was going in that direction.
The special features on the DVD include not only an alternate opening and an alternate ending, but also an extended strip dance and bloopers (I am not making that order up). I was almost tempted to take off another star on this train wreck just because of the special features, since the alternate ending speaks to a lake of artistic vision by the director and the extended strip dance qualifies as adding insult to injury. The sexy dance is not sexy, the bloopers are not funny, and in the end the big quandry is whether in the final analysis "I Know Who Killed Me" was hurt or helped by Lohan's presence. Of course, if this indeed proves to be Lohan's last film, the biggest irony would be how she has come full circle from her first one.