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Film / Karla

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Karla is a 2006 Canadian motion picture drama and thriller. The film is based on the true story of two of Canada's most notorious serial killers, Paul Bernardo (Misha Collins) and Karla Homolka (Laura Prepon).

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • '80s Hair: The "small town" hair with a ball of hair-sprayed bangs didn't really go "out" in Southern Ontario until the mid-1990s. Karla sported a good set of them in all her pictures, and the film delights in this.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The murder victims' names have been changed from Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French to Tina McCarthy and Kaitlyn Ross, respectively. For obvious reasons.
  • Animal Lover: Karla loved animals, particularly her dog Buddy, and worked as a veterinary technician.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Kaitlyn to Karla.
    Why do you stay?
  • Berserk Button: Calling Paul a "bastard."
    Kaitlyn: Some things are worth dying for.
    Paul: Who am I?
    Kaitlyn: You're a bastard!
  • Blatant Lies: Paul and Karla each accused the other of killing the victims, and claimed no responsibility for the murders.
  • Catholic School Girls Rule: The second murder victim was picked up in the vicinity of her Catholic school, still wearing her uniform.
  • Character Title
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: It's been hypothesized that one of the reasons Karla went along with Paul's plan was that she was jealous of the attention he paid towards her sister Tammy. This is downplayed in the film.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Karla is bi and the film portrays it in a painfully creepy way.
  • Domestic Abuse: Paul to Karla.
  • Generic Cop Badges: A variety of badges are seen on law enforcement officers that tend to look rather prop-like and may not necessarily reflect what was worn by the relevant Canadian agencies at the time the true events on which the film was based occurred. For that matter, the courtroom in the trial scene at the end of the film looks rather American and features an extremely generic-looking seal logo bearing a scale of justice. A Canadian courtroom should have a coat of arms on the wall above the judge.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Karla sleeps with a teddy bear. In real life, its name was Bunky The Bear, and she gave it to Kristen French to hold.
  • Godiva Hair: Kaitlyn's hair covers her bare chest.
  • Fairy Tale Wedding Dress: Karla wears one during her wedding to Paul. It even has Giant Poofy Sleeves, yet is somewhat less elaborate than the real life Homolka wedding dress (which had lace).
  • Framing Device: The film is framed as an interview between Karla and her psychiatrist.
  • Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: As they're getting ready to go on their honeymoon to Hawaii, Paul wears a loud Hawaiian shirt.
  • Heroic BSoD: Karla shuts down while Paul rapes her sister. It doesn't last long.
  • Historical Villain Downgrade: The film is based mainly on Homolka's version of events, and thus portrays her as a battered (which, admittedly, does have some basis in reality) and reluctant accessory to Paul's crimes, rather than as the almost entirely complicit partner that she was in real life.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: The film's poster showcases Karla's own lifeless Thousand-Yard Stare.
  • I Have a Family: A variant: Tina begs the couple not to kill her, citing her little brother and how much she loves him. To this, Paul mockingly says "Aww."
  • Inelegant Blubbering: After Karla leaves, Paul drunkenly breaks down. In an apparent fictionalization, he seems to be Driven to Suicide by pointing a knife at his chest. One of the ways you can tell this is set in Canada.
  • Kinky Cuffs: The first time Karla brings Paul home, she shows him her handcuffs.
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: The second kidnap victim loses a shoe.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Apparently the reason Karla went along with Bernardo.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Karla picks up a guy in a bar and they have sex in the washroom.
  • Model Couple: Particularly in their wedding photos, Paul and Karla were unusually good-looking, and seemed to "fit" together.
  • Nature Adores a Virgin: Paul's impetus for raping teenage girls is he wants a virgin. Including Karla's own sister.
  • Never My Fault: Karla. She refuses to take the blame for anything that has occurred, even telling the prison therapist that she didn't kill anyone. When he brings up Tammy (arguably the death she is most responsible for, morally at least if not legally), her response is a loud "Fuck you!"
  • Pet the Dog: Karla brushes Kaitlyn's hair out of her face.
  • Plea Bargain : Karla testified against Paul, in exchange for lenience. She was sentenced to twelve years in prison, with the possibility of parole in four. In real life, Karla Homolka served her full sentence and was released in 2005.
  • Police Are Useless: Bernardo was questioned at least twice in both the Scarborough Rapist case and the murders. (To be fair, in 1992 the technology was not as good as it is now, and even now it's a complex process.)
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Paul Bernardo:
    Paul: Hey, babe.
    Karla: Where have you been?
    Paul: I just raped a girl.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: Several shots of Paul Bernardo grabbing a girl from behind, then stops before the rape. Also used when he rapes Karla and her sister in separate scenes.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Bernardo, in addition to the murders he (or the couple) committed, was also The Scarborough Rapist.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: Paul insists on watching the video they shot the night Tammy died, including showing it to their friends.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The Bernardo-Homolka case is one of the most notorious in Canadian crime history.
  • Scrapbook Story: A mild example. The couple videotaped everything, and reproductions of the tapes are used to tell some of the story. The voice over also includes letters to Paul.
  • Serial Killer: Paul Bernardo
  • Serial Rapist: Paul Bernardo
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Karla believes Paul to be a "musician and filmmaker." His music was terrible, Vanilla Ice-style rap.
  • The Sociopath: Paul Bernardo. Karla herself, to some extent, given her apparent lack of concern for the victims. A blurb during the end credits quotes the parole board describing Karla as manipulative and egocentric.
    Despite her ability to present herself well, there is a moral vacuity and absence of empathy for her victims...
  • Stalker with a Crush: Paul's obsession with Tammy.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Karla to Paul, although it's questionable.
  • Tomboyish Ponytail: In the scene where Karla meets Paul, she wears her hair in a ponytail, to indicate her youth and freshness. In real life, Homolka was 17 when she met Paul at a veterinary convention. (Note: The age of consent in Canada is 16 - and was 14 at the time when Karla and Paul met -, so there was no Jail Bait Wait).
  • Urine Trouble: When the puppy pees on the floor and Karla waits a minute to clean it up, it earns her a backhand.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The story itself is (sadly) quite true to reality, but mistakenly portrayed Homolka as yet another victim of Bernardo's sociopathic antics - despite the fact that it's long-since been established that she was just as culpable as Bernardo. The Canadian media and public were understandably appalled. This is arguable, however, as Karla's "victimization" at the hands of Bernardo was her main line of defense during the court case.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Poor Tammy chokes on her own vomit due to being suffocated by the sedative by Paul and Karla and spits it up during their drugged-up rape of her.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Buddy the rottweiler. We see him for two scenes, then he disappears.
  • Yandere: Karla and Paul's relationship is intense, co-dependent, violent, and dangerous.