Saturday, February 24, 2024

Copycat Killer, the review: from Taiwan with terror

Copycat Killer, the review: from Taiwan with terror

The review of Copycat Killer, the Netflix series where a serial killer takes over an entire city leaving everyone breathless, just like his victims.

Copycat Killer, the review: from Taiwan with terror

The mind of a serial killer is an intricate web, a clockwork mechanism, a system that grabs and squeezes everything, leaving you breathless.
As we will point out in this review of Copycat KillerTaiwan too (although the production is Japanese) rewrites the canons of the psychological thriller by developing an adrenaline-pumping series adapted to its own styles and languages, without departing from the traditional rules of the genre.

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Copycat Killer: a scene from the TV series

The result is an enigmatic narrative process, far from any superficiality, in which no one is safe but everyone is expendable. Puppets operated by invisible threads, the characters of the series directed by Chang Jung-chi and Henri Chang (and available on Netflix) become pawns in a domino ready to collapse. A psychological system dipped in blood, smoothed by an all too excessive passage of time that shakes apparently solid foundations, held together by silenced screams, and laughter filled with sadism and terror.

Copycat Killer: the plot

Copycat Killer

Copycat Killer: a scene from the TV series

Inspired by the novel Hot published in 2001 and written by Miyabe Miyuki, Copycat Killer draws life from the blood that coats the crime scene of a series of murders in a small town in Taiwan in the 1990s. Driven by a boundless self-centeredness, the serial killer who likes to call himself Noh, puts into action a detailed plan to find himself in the center of media attention and demonstrate his intellectual superiority over the Taiwanese law enforcement agencies. The killer actually manages to attract interest in his murders and, almost like a puppeteer, ruthlessly and humiliatingly manipulates his victims, transforming a delicate and complex case into a live national show. A mouse hunt that will have many consequences on the psychological and physical state of the young prosecutor Kuo Hsiao-Chi.

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Curiosity killed the cat

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Copycat Killer: a scene from the TV series

A man, possible accomplices, a prosecutor and many, too many victims. It is a canvas already exploited and everything to be rewritten that of Copycat Killer. A narrative base borrowed from flashes of real life, and imaginative mind reconstructions that seems to have nothing original, while being completely new and engaging at the same time. Taking advantage of a visual construct capable of adapting to the verbal and narrative scope of a screenplay that is never banal, the direction of Henri Chang e Jung Chi Chang manages to translate the charge of mystery and horrific tension that hides behind the action of a perverse and diabolical mind. Traumas that have never been overcome become instruments of deaths announced by subjects who are not afraid to reveal themselves. Taking the viewers by the hand, the filmmakers, assisted by their screenwriters, lead the audience to solve the mysteries and indicate those responsible even before the investigators in the field, giving them an almost divine power, of those who know everything and manipulate everything. Still, the revelation of secrets never falls into the banal, but manages to re-emerge in new guises, transforming the obvious and the predictable into more ghosts to exorcise and more mysteries to solve.

The Long Time of Terror

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Copycat Killer: a scene from the TV series

In Copycat Killer nothing is trivial, much is scary, but a lot is lost in the course of an extremely dilated playing time. The tension plays on a never-established chronometer, but nonetheless marked by the passing of hands which, by dint of turning, weaken its distressing charge. The twist is a frightening slap, but what generates a sense of further terror in the viewer is not a sudden blow, but agony developed in the right time. That of Copycat Killer it is a torment that frays, loses tension during a somewhat lengthened narrative arc, which deprives the flow of events of that final momentum towards a disarming and disorienting emotional hell. With ten episodes lasting an average of fifty minutes, investigations and murders, tortures and secrets lie in a limbo shaken by inner tsunamis and shocking revelations that hit its borders, to then place it in a position of forced balance between fear and relief, bodies tortured and looks of affection. In doing so, that premise full of amazement and sublime discomfort that a spectator in search of thrills likes so much, goes to deflate, getting lost in the ticking of hands that scroll all too slowly cutting, like dull blades, bodies waiting to be discovered and revelations that are slow in being brought to light.

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Men with masks and victims with no identity

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Copycat Killer: a scene from the TV series

It is a river that flows without too many obstacles, Copycat Killer, although some leaks temporarily weaken its “water flow”. The excessive loading of certain performances such as that of the Noh killer, or the insertion of montages of dreamlike visions that are a little too marked as to be forced and out of context, push the race for the killer off the road, beyond the edges of the roadway. At the same time they are excellent, and perfectly in line with the psychology of their characters, the performances of Wu Kang-ren as the prosecutor Kuo, and that of the young journalist Lu Yan-jhen, played by Cammy Chiang. The result is an anthropological gallery of men and women ready to see their nature as human beings torn away from them to regress to the state of victims jousted by a manipulative, monstrous and inhuman killer, just like that mask he wears and which takes away every glimmer of resilient humanity.
A rat hunt in a bloodstained town: Copycat Killer is not afraid to put the viewer at the center of the story, offering him every possible information and making him an active part of a visual experience placed between the canonical revelation of the killer in the psychological thriller style, and a videogame involvement thanks to which every jolt or editing becomes the bearer of mysteries and twists. Too bad for the excessive duration that inexorably marks an impeccable work, just like the face of an innocent victim scarred with the red mark of lipstick that is difficult to remove.


We conclude this review of Copycat Killer by emphasizing how the series available on Netflix set in Taiwan manages to follow the rules of the psychological-thriller genre, however getting lost in the maze of a rather excessive duration which weakens its horror and distressing scope. Many events repeat themselves, others are forced, leaving the spectator in a system whose mechanisms he has understood, but in which he sometimes loses interest.

Because we like it

  • Wu Kang-ren’s performance, capable of carrying the full weight of the series on his shoulders.
  • The adrenaline mixed with horror of some passages.
  • A direction capable of adapting to the narrative sector.

What’s wrong

  • The excessive duration of individual episodes and of the series in general.
  • The characterization of villains that are too loaded, so much so as to be caricatured.
  • Dreamlike scenes sometimes out of context.