Unlike many movies these days, KILLER NERD turns out to be pretty much exactly what you’d expect. A shot-on-video no-budgeter about, yes, a homicidal nerd, it’s reeeeeeally stupid and often quite funny (albeit not always intentionally). Put it this way: if you like the title then you’ll probably like the movie
The early nineties saw an explosion of shot-on-video horror features, of which KILLER NERD (1991) was one of the most successful, so much so that a sequel, BRIDE OF KILLER NERD, was made a year later. Like most of these early-90’s SOV movies, however (which includes much of indie auteur J.R. Bookwalter’s Tempe Video catalog, through which KILLER NERD was once distributed), both films have been largely forgotten. That’s probably for the best, as KILLER NERD doesn’t seem all that wacky or outrageous any more. We’ve seen our share of killer nerds in real life, after all (Columbine, anyone?), and they’re immeasurably freakier than anything this movie can offer up.
In any event, KILLER NERD may be a far cry from CITIZEN KANE, but it definitely lives up to its title. Toby Radloff, a self-proclaimed “Genuine Nerd” and co-star of the popular Sundance sensation AMERICAN SPLENDOR, is ideally suited to the main role, and really does seem to live his character. He’s no Eddie Deezen, though.
Harold Kunkle is a nerd: he wears glasses with tape wrapped between the lenses, has a potbelly and an affected, whiney voice. Furthermore, he never goes anywhere without his geeky suit and necktie. He has trouble getting dates and finds himself picked on by nearly everyone he meets: waiting for a bus one day, some guys harass him with the taunt “The last time you got some trim was when yo’ mamma gave you a haircut!” Harold attempts to improve his fortunes by taking advice from How to be Cool tapes by “Slick Dick,” but succeeds only in making himself look even dorkier, complete with a hyper-dweeby spiky ‘do.
An encounter with two hot chicks in a bar, whose boyfriends drag him into an alley and beat him up, sends Harold over the edge. He embarks on a killing spree, picking off his tormentors in a variety of different ways: decapitation, acid in the face, a machete to the forehead, dynamite strapped to necks and set off while screaming, “Nerd!” over and over and letting his frustrations be known (“You beat me, my stepfather used to beat me, the kids at school beat me, the paper girl beat me once!”). It ends with our “hero” taking off, having plenty of money “saved up from a lifetime of dateless Saturday nights!”
Cinematically, the movie’s far too slow moving overall, with lengthy dialogue exchanges taking up a large portion of the film. Likewise, scenes of a hot chick doing a particularly inept striptease over a white background are introduced at the beginning and end, apparently in an attempt to further pad the running time. The third act mayhem is about as cheesy as it gets, with patently unconvincing special effects (just try not to laugh at the severed head Radloff tosses at one point).
What I liked were the protagonist’s wacky dream scenes, with arty jump cuts depicting Radloff reciting nerd poetry while writhing on his bed and fondling blow up sex dolls. Unlike the rest of the film, these bits impart a genuinely psychotic aura, creepy enough that, to borrow a quote from the video box cover: “YOU MAY NEVER PICK ON A NERD AGAIN!”
RIOT Pictures/Hollywood Home Entertainment
Directors/Producers/Screenplay: Mark Steven Bosko, Wayne A. Harold
Cinematography: Alan Stevens
Editor: Dick Myers
Cast: Toby Radloff, Lori Scarlett, Tony Zanoni, Heidi lohr, Richard Zaynor