Phillip Guzman’s “A Kiss and a Promise” is an admirably restrained portrait of serial killer, co-written by Mick Rossi, who plays the seemingly normal owner of a Bed and Breakfast with more than one secret life. Rossi’s fascinating performance is the reason to watch this film.
In a quiet town in Ontario, Samantha (Natasha Gregson Wagner) and David Beck (Rossi) run a bed and breakfast, in a house inherited by Samantha. They have one long-term resident, writer Charlie (Sean Power), who spends his time scrapping with the locals in a cafe and spinning various tales about his life. He claims he’s a published novelist, although bar denizen Sparkie (Aaron Gallagher) says there’s not one word about his novels anywhere on the net. He also shoots his mouth off about Real Estate deals, later revealing he’s planning to sell the B & B. “I have shares” he tells the dubious Sparkie.
Annoyed by Charlie’s constant presence in their life, Samantha follows Charlie and discovers his “dirty little secret”, the wealthy john he services in an expensive home near by.
David seems to be an attentive husband, until we watch him make love to Charlie; and he has a hobby. He checks into out of the way motels, pays cash for a quiet room in the back, spots victims at the subway station and sweet talks them into coming with him. Once it’s a hooker (Samantha Farrow) another times it’s a runaway (Danielle Watling) who he befriends, and puts up for the night, as long as she “promises to a call her mother in the morning.”
He has sex with them, promises not to hurt them, strangles them with his belt then apologizes to their corpse for his compulsive homicidal behavior. His final victim, Lily (Lisa Ciara in a strong perf) winds up in his motel room after giving him directions on the road. In the most extended sex scene, David comforts the woman who’s begging for her life. ‘Help me, Lily, Kiss me” he pleads during sex, “I won’t hurt you.”
Inspired by an event that happened in Europe, the script keeps story surprises coming. Unfortunately the dialogue (particularly for Natasha Gregson Wagner and Sean Power) is not as interesting as the story. Patrick Bergin and Robert Miano are good as a pair of detectives, but their scenes fail to ignite, as their banter seems somewhat undercooked.
Guzman relies on the sort of ironic intercutting of montage sequences, first used to such great effect in the Godfather that it has haunted editors ever since. Whatever ironic or shock effect this sort of editing once had, it has now become a cliché. Once it’s David and Samantha’s romantic night out, against the sequence of a mother mourning her murdered daughter. Next we watch David dispatch poor Lily, against a final showdown between Charlie and Samantha.
Editor-cinematographer Philip Roy and composer David M. Frost add to the subdued approach, which avoids lurid sensationalism. Roy plays with a lot of deep-focus shots and Frost uses a minimal score.