Bad Karma (2002)

Set in Rhode Island but shot in Ireland, this adaptation of a Douglas Clegg novel is a faintly nasty reprise of the familiar Psycho Bitch From Hell sub-genre, with reincarnation and Jack the Ripper footnotes. It opens with siliconed naked schoolgirl Maureen kidnapped and tortured by a garage mechanic (Damien Chapa) who wants to force her to remember earlier incarnations - he was one of the prostitute victims of Jack the Ripper and she was the famous murderer's accomplice. After seducing and murdering the psycho, the girl goes free only to turn up after extensive plastic surgery (and now played by Patsy Kensit) as Agnes, a serial killer in the care of overworked psychiatrist Dr Trey Campbell (Patrick Muldoon). As the hero takes his wife (Amy Locane) and child (Aimee O'Sullivan) for a vacation to revive a collapsing marriage, Maureen / Agnes seduces his replacement and escapes from the institution, intent on forcing Campbell to remember his own previous life, in which he was a mustachioed Ripper. It turns out that in 1888, Agnes's earlier incarnation impulsively burned her psycho lover to death in a furnace he was using to hide from the police because she had found a picture in a locket which suggested he was unfaithful to her only to learn (in one of the oldest tricks in the book) that the woman in the picture was his sister. The plausible blonde maniac kills a few people and worms her way into the lives of the wife and child as the hero runs about coping with the escape. Veteran horror director John Hough stages a few creepy moments with sudden Kensit appearances only to fumble the gorier or would-be suspenseful sequences.
KIM NEWMAN

First published in this form here.


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