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Film / Kalifornia

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Kalifornia is a 1993 thriller/road film directed by Dominic Sena, starring Brad Pitt, David Duchovny, Juliette Lewis, and Michelle Forbes.

Brian Kessler (Duchovny) works as a journalist who specializes in serial killers. He and his long-term girlfriend, professional photographer Carrie Laughlin (Forbes), are anxious to get away from the midwest and move out west. Since they can't afford to do this on their own, Brian posts an ad on a college bulletin board to find someone else to come along and share the expenses. His ad is answered by Early Grace (Pitt), who, along with his girlfriend Adele Corners (Lewis), also want to leave the area and move to California. Early and Adele are polar opposites to Brian and Carrie; the latter are college educated professionals, whereas the former are incredibly uneducated, impoverished, unemployed, and lowbrow. Unknown to Brian and Carrie, Early is, coincidentally, a serial killer himself. The foursome drive cross-country, making pit stops at famous serial killer locations to help Brian with his upcoming book. Meanwhile, Early leaves a trail of blood in their wake.


  • The Alcoholic: Early clearly has a drinking problem, and he spends most of the movie chugging beer.
  • Asshole Victim : Early's landlord, and the jerk in the Mercedes who nearly hits Early, at least in Early's view.
  • A Storm Is Coming: Played straight shortly before Carrie sees Early on the news and Early stops hiding his crimes from everyone else.
  • Auto Erotica: Early and Adele with Carrie taking pictures. Early himself doesn't mind after he spots her doing so.
  • Ax-Crazy: Early, to a very disturbing degree. He seems completely unable to control himself and he murders innocent people for no reason at all.
  • Berserk Button: Really, Early? Did you have to hurt Carrie and piss off Brian?
  • Blatant Lies : No one gets a straight answer about Early's prison time.
  • Companion Cube : The cactus Adele keeps in her purse, named "Lucy." She talks to it. When it's destroyed, she gets another one and names it.
  • Cool Car : The Lincoln Convertible Brian and Carrie own.
  • Disco Dan: A rather dark example, as it involves not outdated fashions or fads so much as outdated attitudes. Early Grayce is an "unreconstructed redneck" type who speaks in a slightly animalistic Southern accent. One of his more reactionary beliefs is that women should not only be inferior to men, but should be kept in a state of perpetual childhood. As such, his female companion, Adele, is forced to wear baby-doll dresses at all times and doesn't smoke cigarettes because "Early broke me of it." In addition, she's often seen playing with a yo-yo and speaks in a very whiny voice. When Adele finally starts acting like a grown-up and then gives Early a Shut Up, Hannibal! speech, Early kills her; he then abducts the hero's more modern, liberated female companion and turns her into a sex toy, with a halter top and cutoff shorts. (Of course, since Early is also an unapologetic serial killer, his Politically Incorrect Villain tendencies are just the tip of the iceberg.)
  • Domestic Abuse: Though Adele doesn't see it that way. Even when he whips her for doing something wrong.
    He may punish me once in a while, but he's not mean.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Subverted. Early deliberately guns Adele down after she helped one of Early's victim to escape.
  • Faux Affably Evil : Early frequently jokes and laughs inappropriately. He seems friendly at first, especially when he and Brian go to a bar, but it gets creepier and more frightening as things start to spiral out of control.
    Come on Bub, have some grub.
  • Freudian Excuse: Parodied, played straight or defied depending on your interpretation. It's never made all that clear, but Early clearly mocks Brian for bringing it up.
  • Lack of Empathy: Early in general, especially when he kills Adele, his longtime girlfriend and the only one person who ever loved him.
  • Ms. Fanservice : Carrie spends a large part of the movie in matching black bra and panties. Subverted when she is forced to wear Adele's babydoll clothes and the outfit looks terrible on her.
  • Manchild: Adele is incredibly naive and childish. She still plays with a yo-yo, for one, and when Carrie tries to reason with her about Early, she turns up the radio. It is mentioned in the film that Adele was raped as a teenager and spent three months in a coma. She could very likely be brain damaged as a result, which would explain her childish behavior.
  • "Not So Different" Remark : Early tries to force Brian into committing violent acts, even suggesting Brian enjoys it. This brings Brian to a few realizations about himself...namely that he's really not like Early.
  • Offscreen Villainy: From what Adele says, her relationship with Early is loaded with Domestic Abuse.
  • Pet the Dog : Subverted when Early surprises Adele with a pair of pretty high heeled shoes... that he stole from a recent victim.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Early has a lot of child-like tendencies, and he's got the psychopathic part down pretty well.
  • Rape as Drama: When Brian finds Carrie chained to a bedpost, it's enough to send him in a rage, postpone the rescue and attempt to kill Early first.
  • Replacement Goldfish
    • Once Early kills Adele in a fit, he dresses up Carrie in Adele's clothing and treats her similarly (by not allowing her to smoke etc).
    • A less terrifying version: when Adele loses her purse-cactus ("Lucy"), she finds another one.
  • Road Trip Plot : Toward the titular "Kalifornia," across several states and the sites of serial killers' crimes.
  • Serial Killer: Early qualifies as one. Also the subjects of Brian's book, which serves as a Framing Device for the story.
  • Shoot the Dog: Early tries to get Brian to do this, and to a cop no less. He even quotes the trope name twice.
  • Society Is to Blame: This is largely the attitude of Brian early in the film, as seen when he argues with a colleague at a party early in the film. His experiences over the course of the film do change his mind somewhat.
  • The Sociopath: Early is a prime example. He is incapable of empathy or remorse and has no regard for the well-being of others. He has little to no impulse control, can't hold down a job and becomes enraged over the smallest things. His impulsive murders also make it clear he can't plan ahead either.
  • Traumatic Haircut : Early cuts Adele's hair to look more like Carrie's and she's upset about it. Carrie gets a Pet the Dog moment when she fixes Adele's hair.
  • Wall Bang Her: Happens between Carrie and Brian while in bed with Early listening in on the other side.