Lou Ford: Oh, I know the old Branch place. She a hustling lady, Bob?
Sheriff Bob Maples: Well, I guess so, but she's - she's been pretty decent about it.
This film is unflinchingly violent and deliberately disturbing. It begins when the polite, seemingly normal Lou Ford is sent to encourage local prostitute Joyce Lakeland to leave town. The confrontation leads to him beating her with a belt, and their romance begins. Together they concoct a plan to scam money from the wealthy Chester Conway. But Lou secretly had an even darker plan for Joyce. He beats Joyce unconcious and shoots Chester's son, making it appear as if the two of them got into a fight. From there he must keep commiting more murders to cover up his crimes, and also, because he enjoys it.
Not to be confused with The Killer in Me.
This film provides examples of:
- Asshole Victim: Chester Conway is an overbearing jerk and his son is wildly irresponsible but damn, they did not deserve what happened.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Joyce's beauty is mostly destroyed after Lou is done with her. When she reappears at the end of the film, her entire face is covered in scars.
- Bondage Is Bad: Subverted, despite Lou being a sociopathic and sadistic killer, having sadomasochistic fantasies is in no way described as wrong. The only times it is is when Lou spanks Joyce without her consent and during a sequence showing Lou as an underage kid beating his babysitter. Otherwise, Lou's BDSM relationships with Joyce and Amy are shown as loving and perfectly sane.
- Domestic Abuse: Lou has to be one of the worst in cinema history.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Lou is shown as having genuine affection for Joyce (although it doesn't stop him from beating her to a bloody pulp and using her for his revenge plan) and is show as partly regretting his action multiple times in the film. Later when he has been arrested and sent to a mental institution, he hallucinates films being shown in his cell, showing a smiling Joyce.
- Evil Is Petty: Lou sets up Elmer and hopes that Chester will live a long life of shame about what happened.
- Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: Lou is boyishly handsome with a sweet demeanor, and is a sadistic, psychopathic serial killer.
- Fake Pregnancy: Amy attempts this in an effort to get Lou to hurry up and marry her already, only for him to drily inform her that he's infertile.
- Faux Affably Evil: Lou Ford never loses his puppy dog eyes, southern drawl and gentlemanly ways, even when he's beating someone to death.
- For the Evulz: Why Lou does most of what he does.
- Freudian Excuse: The camera pans over the main character's bookshelf, lingering prominently on a volume of Freud. He immediately takes a Bible off the same shelf, opens it, and finds forgotten photographs of his father's sadomasochistic relationship with the housekeeper, Helene. She sexually abused Lou when he was young as well, instructing him to hit and spank her, telling him that she "likes it when [he] hurts [her]", likely planting the seeds of his sociopathy in him. He also mentions later that his mother died when he was young.
- The Killer in Me: Interestingly, averted. Despite the name, it isn't an example of this trope, as it's told from the first-person perspective of a character who knowingly and admittedly is committing the murders in the story, and isn't hallucinating or hiding anything from the viewer. Or is he?
- Kinky Spanking: This is a sexual fetish for Lou and he engages in spanking with a local prostitute as well as his fiancé.
- Manipulative Bastard: Lou, given his reputation as a perfect Southern Gentleman in the town, gets people to have total faith in him and so they naturally tend to confide to him. He manages to pull off a scheme that got everyone right where he wanted them to be: Elmer plans to run off with Joyce, using the money his father gave him, Chester wants Joyce to get out of town to leave Elmer alone and ask Lou to help him with it; Joyce for her part believes that Lou is going to join her after she leaves Elmer in the lurch, when Lou really convinced him that he would help them get away quietly. In the end, he has killed Joyce and Elmer has everyone believing that the two killed each other without anyone suspecting him as no one involved believed he had contact with the others. So he made everyone believe he was working for them without any of them knowing he was using all of them.
- No Dead Body Poops: Averted. If you kill someone, and they needed to go to the bathroom at the time you brutally beat them to death, guess what happens?
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Lou gives one of these to both Joyce and Amy in graphic, prolonged, horrific scenes. And they both die. Except not really, because Joyce is revealed to be alive at the end, although disfigured—and then he immediately kills her for real.
- "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Joyce starts hitting Lou, Lou hits her back, and then shoves her down on the bed and starts beating her with his belt, which she shows signs of beginning to enjoy mid-way through. He apologizes, looking shocked at himself, and she tells him it's okay and kisses him before they have consensual sex. They then begin an S&M relationship.
- Rape as Backstory: Lou's backstory is that he was the victim of sexual abuse and a sexual abuser.
- Sadist: Lou, all the way.
- Serial Killer: Lou qualified as over the course of the film he kills Joyce, Elmer, Johnnie, Amy and even several police officers when he blows up his house with him in it.
- The Sociopath: Lou, all the way.
- Then Let Me Be Evil: Implied by this quote (although it sounds more like a crappy justification that Lou is trying to come up with):Lou: It was almost like there was a plot against me. I've done something wrong when I was a kid, and I had my nose rubbed in it day after day.
- Villain Protagonist: Lou Ford is an accomplished serial killer and domestic abuser masquerading as an honest cop, and genuinely enjoys all the murders he commits.
- Violence Is Disturbing: There's a notorious scene where the Villain Protagonist graphically beats a woman to death for five whole minutes. Her face is mangled beyond belief when he's done.
- Your Cheating Heart: Lou, multiple times towards Amy.