A Killing Affair (1986) Poster

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The Devil in the Woods
sol12189 November 2004
***SPOILERS*** Pink Gresham, Bill Smitrovich, wasn't exactly a model citizen or loving husband he was a down-right lowlife scoundrel.

Abusing and flaunting his infidelities in front of his long-suffering wife Maggie, Kathy Baker, and his two children as well as ripping off those who worked at the Parrish Mill, where Pink was the manager, of their hard-earned pay the fact that he ended up hacked to death hanging upside down at the smoke-shed on his property was no surprise to anyone. The surprise was how under the circumstances and who committed it, Pink's murder! even more sinister the real reason behind it.

A movie that takes you to places thats, as far as I know, never gone before in a horror movie and ends up with the unleashing of the dogs of hell that put a gory end to the devil incarnate who was responsible of the murderous acts in the film.

Maggie finding her husband Pink murdered is in a panic as she runs to her only neighbor Vinia, Rhetta Hughes, on the almost deserted island in W. Virginia that she lives on for help. Only to be told that there's nothing she, Vinia, could do with a pack of vicious dogs running loose on the island that already killed one of her children. Back at the house Maggie is startled to find a stranger knocking on her door looking for her husband to get work at the Parrish Mill.

The stranger Baston Morris, Peter Weller, comes across as a strange and somewhat innocent person at first. But before Maggie can compose herself from the shock of Pinks death he, Baston, lets out the fact that he indeed murdered her husband. Terrified of the creepy Baston and what he can do to her Maggie is trapped with nowhere to go for help and a prisoner in her own home. Then something happens that is so startling, by what Baston told her about Pink that it turns Maggie's fear and panic of him into sympathy and even has her falling in love with him! To where when her Brother Sheb, John Glover, a local preacher came with the sheriff, to see if everything was all right with her and Pink She hides Baston in her bedroom. Protecting him for being arrested by the local police for her husbands murder! little did Maggie know what the truth was about Baston and that truth instead of setting Maggie free was going to free her of her life and the lives of her two children in what Baston's sick mind had in store for her and them.

Very good debut by director David Saperstein who gives the movie a very professional look. But it's the eerie and rural Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performance of actor Peter Weller as Baston Morris that really pushes the movie "A Killing Affair" to the front of the line. Makng it one of the most scary and effective, as well as unknown, horror films of the 1980's. Weller in his portrayal of the dangerous as well as at the same time almost likable Baston shows that evil can come to us in almost any kind of package or appearance.
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Three intense days.
rsoonsa11 May 2002
Based on Robert Houston's potent novel: "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday", this film relates of Maggie Grisham (Kathy Baker) who finds herself espaliered to a man who has just killed her husband, and who then takes shelter with her from his pursuers, in her rural West Virginia home which is nestled in a jungle of trees and brush, surrounded by packs of feral dogs. Obviously not terribly pleased with the interloper, Baston Morris, played pungently by Peter Weller, Maggie is inexorably drawn physically to him, partially since her late husband, Pink (Bill Smitrovich) was not faithful to her and was widely recognized before his demise as a man of inferior character who preyed upon the wives of those he supervised at the mill where he was foreman. From flashbacks, we discover that the wife and children of Morris were slain shortly before the death of Pink Grisham, and that the fugitive believes that the foreman was their murderer to avoid becoming entangled with the family as Morris' wife had decided to leave him for his boss and this, therefore, is why Morris had killed him: an act of retribution. The substance of the narrative becomes an attempt to determine if Morris is what he claims to be, a wronged man bent upon revenge, or something either better or worse, and Maggie is increasingly swallowed by her curious dilemma of finding herself possibly in love with her husband's killer who may, in fact, be a madman. There is a baroque quality to this work, with an appropriate thematic score electronically organized by John Barry, and a goodly amount of symbolism borrowed from the novel, as adapted by director David Saperstein, especially relating to the river which borders the Grisham property and which serves also as a cinematic boundary. Although an entry at the AFI Festival in Los Angeles, the film has been sadly neglected since; its almost balladic nature is strengthened by the fine editing of Patrick McMahon, the production design of John Jay Moore, and the costumes of Elizabeth Seley, with the latter pair accurately reprising the scenario's 1943 setting. Weller performs nicely in a role which allows for dramatic development and Baker is convincing as a mother and sudden widow who is unexpectedly exposed to circumstances and emotions of which she has no experience, and the action is most effective when these two are alone together; the remainder of the players are well cast, with only John Glover, as Maggie's brother, lacking his customary steam in his portrayal.
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Cold Characters
Hitchcoc5 December 2006
I got some of the same feelings that I received from watching "Cold Mountain." There is an overriding threat throughout. People don't trust because there are people who usurp authority and control others, even though they have no real right to. Mr. Grisham is about as despicable as a man can be. He uses people, capitalizing on their poverty, uses women, and mistreats his family. Eventually he gets to pay for that. But, coming into the picture, is an enigmatic man who is seeking revenge. He claims that Grisham killed his wife and family. He admits that he killed Grisham in retaliation. This is where things get dicey. I will say no more about the plot. The acting is bleak. The setting is a morass of trees and vines, a river with no escape, and a pack of dogs that threatens the characters at every turn. Threre is bitterness from the black family that is, of course, mistreated and abused. There is the woman who has had to depend on a bastard of a husband, not knowing what to do and who to trust. She is victimized by her husband's reputation and his evil. This movie really captures a time period and a group of Virginians during an unhappy time in our history. It is gut wrenching and believable. A bit of a diamond in the rough.
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Not exactly an island paradise ..............
merklekranz19 January 2010
With a vicious and unpredictable wild dog pack running loose, and a killer in her house, Kathy Baker is trapped on an island, and in one terrific predicament. To complicate matters, it was her abusive husband who Peter Weller killed. The setting for this steamy psychological thriller is 1943 rural West Virginia, and everything is well depicted, and seems quite authentic. Adding to the realism is interesting music and sound effects. The acting and accents are top notch, and the script has several twists and turns, along with a few short flashbacks that tie things together. Eventually the past catches up with all the characters, and the conclusion is totally acceptable. - MERK
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Worth seeing for Kathy Baker.
Hey_Sweden17 March 2016
WWII era West Virginia. In a rural area, there's a thoroughly despicable character named Pink Gresham (top character actor Bill Smitrovich), a mill foreman who not only screws over his employees, but cheats on his wife Maggie (Kathy Baker) to boot. Shortly into the story, Maggie finds Pink dead, and is then visited by a stranger, Baston Morris (Peter Weller). Maggie finds herself drawn to Baston, even after he informs her that he's murdered her husband. The balance of "A Killing Affair" shows how their relationship develops, as she struggles between possible feelings for him and an understandable amount of distrust for the man. Is Baston really on the level with her? He hides out on her homestead while the law searches for him.

This marked the directing debut for screenwriter David Saperstein ("Cocoon"), who adapted the novel "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday" by Robert Houston. This viewer didn't mind so much the fact that it is a pretty sordid story (with some interesting revelations along the way), but overall it lacks any truly intriguing features). It's got some decent period atmosphere, some mild titillation (a brief flashing of breasts), a draggy pace, and no on screen violence, but what it does have is a sympathetic, appealing performance by Ms. Baker. Weller is passable as the earnest, somewhat enigmatic Morris. Smitrovich is perfectly vile in his brief time on screen. And John Glover is solid, if not utilized to his full potential, as Maggies' brother who is also the local priest. The film does also have a lush, lovely score by ever reliable John Barry.

Not bad, but not very memorable either.

Six out of 10.
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Absorbing, if rather slow thriller
Woodyanders9 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
1943. Evil and unscrupulous mill foreman Pink Gresham (well played to the despicable hilt by Bill Smitrovich) gets murdered in a small backwoods town in rural Virginia. Gresham's mousy widow Maggie (a solid and sympathetic portrayal by Kathy Baker) gets paid a visit by mysterious drifter Baston Morris (a fine performance by Peter Weller), who openly admits that he murdered Gresham and seeks refuge in Maggie's home.

Writer/director David Saperstein delivers a strong and flavorsome evocation of the 1940's period setting as well as an equally potent and unnerving sense of isolation and vulnerability, with the remote island location that's being terrorized by a pack of wild dogs coming across as especially well-realized. Baker and Weller do stand-out work in the leads, with sturdy support from the always dependable John Glover as meddlesome local minister Sheb Sheppard. Both John Barry's moody score and the handsome cinematography by Dominique Chapuis are up to par. However, the often sluggish pacing and frequently meandering narrative make this one a bit of a rough slog to get through at times. Those flaws aside, this film overall still sizes up as a pretty engrossing and effective outing.
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"He was an evil man."
classicsoncall9 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Call me crazy, but I just don't think it's EVER a good idea to sleep with an ax-murderer. Of course, Maggie Gresham didn't know that at the time, but she DID know the soon to be revealed maniac killed her own husband, lout that he was. I'd never be so cold as to say the guy deserved it, but he was asking for trouble right from the opening scene.

To be fair, Baston Morris (Peter Weller) did keep you guessing with his soft spoken demeanor and repeated promises not to hurt Maggie. You just had to overlook the ax in the headboard that one time he got his back up. How he figured to replace his dead family with a live one is how this story plays out, but there are red flags all over the place if you're paying attention.

The bit with the wild dogs roaming the Gresham island was effective for an additional horror component, and now that I think about it, why did the residents let that go on for so long? But it did set up that perfectly grisly ending, even though we don't get to see it. Quite honestly, there aren't any redeeming characters in this flick unless you count the two absent Gresham children, who by the end of the film still didn't know their Dad was a goner.
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period thriller goes off the rails
mjneu5929 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The lurid title isn't much of an improvement over the name of Robert Houston's original novel ('Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday') but it at least hints at the occasionally overwrought plotting in this Appalachian thriller, a murder/hostage drama set in rural West Virginia circa 1943. Some careful attention to period flavor helps give the film a definite sense of time and place, not that it matters after ignorant drifter Peter Weller kills a wicked mill foreman and holds his victim's long-suffering wife captive for three days. The set-up is dramatically sound, but every shred of credibility gets tossed out the window in the second act: Kathy Baker begins to sympathize with her captor; they sleep together; he's then revealed to be a homicidal maniac, and so forth. Perhaps it's all meant to be a parable of one woman's liberation out from under male authority, but the subtext is too confused for the film to work as anything deeper than a routine, violent psychodrama. In the end what might have been a real sleeper winds up as just another corpse.
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deserves to be among the greatest movies of all time,
nzpedals10 March 2016
It's a real story, and I know who the characters are immediately. But the best part is the superb acting by Kathy Baker. This is her movie from start to finish. Sure, the others, (Weller, Smitrovich ) are good, but nothing in comparison to Baker.

Her voice, the tone, the pauses, the eyes, the gestures, combine to tell the exact emotion, in an emotion-packed story. There is worry, doubt, fear, a tiny bit of joy - it's all there, compassion too. Not much to laugh about, in fact nothing at all, but that's not necessary in such a gripping story.

Set in small-town USA in the forties, where the mill is supposedly short of able-bodied men. Flashbacks tell of the background as the horrible foreman acquires a wife from the distraught and stupid son of another horrible person who had locked his wife in a share-croppers shack for two years.

As he is led away after being caught, he shouts "She's my wife, she belongs to me", and that seems to be the attitude of his son Sheb (John Glover) who later becomes a Baptist minister and proclaims the same horrible code. Maggie (Kathy Baker) is his sister. Sheb callously gives her to Pink Gresham, the Parrish Mill foreman. Pink cheats on his workers - deducting $5 *more* from their pay packet than usual (that would be a huge amount in today's money), but the workers are powerless to complain. Pink cheats on his wife too, spending the night with cute Sara (rather oddly, the credits say "Sarah's father"? (Danny Nelson) who doesn't say a word. His face says it all - disapproval, but powerless to interfere.

Someone else that Pink has hurt is Baston Morris, (Weller) with whom Pink had stayed for a week whilst looking for workers to replace men who have been drafted or enlisted in the war. Pink buys gifts for the Morris children and especially their mother (another actor who doesn't say a word). The wife says (in a letter that Baston finds) that she will leave Baston and go to live with Pink. Needless to say, that upsets Morris so much that he comes after Pink. And gets him.

When Morris shows up at the Gresham house, on the other side of the river with no road access, Maggie is effectively held hostage. She tries to get help from a neighbor, but fails. To add to the fear and danger, there are a pack of wild dogs in the area. Morris deals to them and threatens to do the same to Maggie unless she agrees to help him escape.

There are a couple of very short scenes, half a second long, that need to be noticed and their relevance understood. That might take a second or third viewing of the DVD, well worth it. The neighbor's young son has seen a critical event between Maggie and Morris. That leads to the arrival of the Sheriff, and the inevitable conclusion.

Great writing, lots of memorable lines, great direction and production. My only complaint might be the title, OK, there is a bit of killing, but that's not the main story, so perhaps "Hostage Affair" might have been better.
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