I’ve been a sucker for killer kid movies ever since The Bad Seed, so the prospect of a film featuring a homicidal little black girl — in my dream scenario, with afro puffs instead of Bad Seed Rhoda’s trademark pigtails — piqued my interest. Alas, as the cover art shows, there are no afro puffs in Fixation, and even worse, there’s barely any of the killer kid action it seems to promise. Instead, we get a suburban thriller that’s more along the lines of Stephen King’s A Good Marriage, in which a wife begins to suspect that her husband is a serial killer. What she doesn’t realize is that her daughter is also a budding murderess — so, on the bright side, at least the dad’s Take Your Daughter to Work Day won’t be quite so awkward.
Unfortunately, the script mostly hones in on the relationship between husband Charles (Tobie Famusipe) and wife Katherine (Needa-Mya Chambers) — her growing suspicions about his late “work” hours and his secret stash of women’s underwear — instead of the plight of daughter Samantha (Jasmine Wade), whose bloodlust takes flight when she retaliates against “mean girl” bullies at school. Samantha actually figures out that Charles is the notorious “Grant Park Killer” before her mom does and confronts him about it — not to get him to turn himself in, but rather to get him to teach her how to kill.
Thus begins a potentially compelling psycho mentor dynamic that could’ve distinguished an otherwise nondescript film, but we never really get to see it develop. Instead, we focus on Katherine digging through Charles’ things, following him incognito and discussing her concerns with her friend. Oddly, the scenes of her fretting about whether her husband is engaged in fetishized murders — she even calls the cops to report him — alternate back and forth with scenes of her thoroughly enjoying her married life: going to the movies with Charles and engaging in flirtatious banter like she doesn’t have a care in the world.
She doesn’t seem to mind that the inept cops don’t even follow up on her tip. Somehow, they’re so stumped about the case and have no suspects, and yet they ignore a caller who says she’s married to the culprit. Of course, these are the same police detectives who find a wad of DNA-laden chewed gum at one murder scene and then discard it because “half of Atlanta chews that gum.” The pièce de ré·sis·tance for these bumbling cops, though, is when a female detective ends a scene by grabbing a roll of toilet paper and a can of air freshener — both of which, for some reason, reside on her desk at work — and heads to the john, saying, “I gotta take care of some business real quick.” WHY DOES THIS SCENE EXIST???
Given its low production value (reflected, in part, by flubs like awkward scene transitions, a couple of guest appearances by the boom mike and a jarring moment in which a cast member appears to literally kick the camera), I give Fixation credit for some solid, naturalistic performances from the cast, particularly Chambers and Wade as the female leads. I’ll also forgive the gratuitous product placement promoting a self-help book and a barbeque sauce that is presumably related to filmmakers Renee and Bobby Peoples somehow; gotta pay the bills, I guess.
I also appreciate that Fixation strives for something a bit out of the norm, especially for a black genre film, even if the result is underwhelming — not so much building to a climax as drifting along matter-of-factly towards a stopping point with credits in it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta take care of some business real quick.