Being a teenager is difficult enough when there isn’t a serial killer on the loose. Not making things easier in “Kill Me Please” is the fact that, for 15-year-old Bia (Valentina Herszage), the recent string of murders is perversely fascinating — the kind of thing she’d post on Facebook or like on Instagram, not least because one of the victims bears a striking resemblance to her.
A kind of “Virgin Homicides,” Anita Rocha da Silveira’s debut feature takes place in a well-to-do Rio de Janeiro struggling to understand the violence that’s invaded its neighborhood. Bia and her three besties talk about boys, parties, and the ghost that may or may not haunt their school — all of it ubiquitous yet unknowable. Bia’s conception of such adolescent milestones has been so filtered through pop culture and social media that, by the time she actually experiences them for herself, would-be landmarks hardly elicit a shrug. She needs something realer and more exotic to capture her attention.
As she immerses herself in the implications of these murders, Bia drifts further from her social circle. If not quite mean girls, this clique is given to all the casual pettiness you’d expect of a well-off quartet whose compliments often mask thinly veiled contempt; as with their smartphone addictions, this too is part of how they’ve learned to act in and make sense of the world around them. As coming of age becomes an ever more digital experience, it’s increasingly easy for impressionable young minds to divorce themselves from the reality of their situations and mentally shape them into whatever they choose.
For Bia and her BFFs, that’s dangerous and liberating in equal measure.
“Kill Me Please” is as much a teen movie as it is a horror movie, vacillating between the genres in such a way that you’re reminded from one scene to another how similar the two really are — when you’re in high school, is a knife-wielding psycho truly any scarier a prospect than the acceptance of your peers?
The recent pantheon of similar movies suggests not. “Kill Me Please” sits alongside the likes of Eliza Hittman’s “It Felt Like Love” and Anna Rose Holmer’s “The Fits” in portraying female adolescence with a lived-in authenticity and pain so many other films gloss over; in all we see the arrival of exciting new talents both in front of and behind the camera.
Silveira is far more adroit in navigating this world than her characters, who are still in the process of becoming themselves; that this is her first feature suggests that, perhaps unlike Bia and her friends, great things can be expected of her. “Kill Me Please” oozes style even as it betrays its influences (namely the candy-coated nightmares of David Lynch), with a wonderfully strange ending that feels inevitable even if it doesn’t make immediate logical sense — which is to say, it’s a lot like so many other key moments of growing up.
“Kill Me Please” opens in limited release on September 1.