Holla If I Kill You (2003)

You might be tempted to dismiss this low-budget comedic slasher, but in some ways it’s an important and perceptive film. Well, maybe not “important,” but in light of the whole KKKramer controversy with Michael Richards, Holla If I Kill You is eerily prophetic. It revolves around the world of stand-up comedy and presents an intriguing concept that I don’t think has been broached before in a slasher (which is saying something): the comedian versus his natural enemy, the booer.

It sounds silly — and really, it is — but the film sells it with a faux talk show segment and on-the-street interviews with (real) comedians and (fake) audience members. One of the comics gives sage advice in handling hecklers that Michael Richards should’ve heeded — “You can’t take it personally” — a delves into racial politics with the observation that “[White people] don’t boo black folks because they don’t want to be racist. You ain’t gonna never hear a white person go, ‘Get off the stage, nigga!'” Again, Kramer apparently wasn’t cc’d on that.

The premise is well suited to a film with a shoestring budget, as you can scrape together some comics, who are natural actors, and focus the action on one logical central location: a comedy club. There is an actual plot to Holla If I Kill You beyond discussions about comedy club hecklers, though. In a unique concept, it fictionalizes the person who coined the phrase “holla,” presenting him as stand-up comedian Hollaback (Mike Troy Smith), who’s struggling because, well, he sucks and has been riding his gimmick into the ground. He begins getting menacing, Scream-like phone calls insulting his act and threatening his life: “What’s red and black and can’t crack a smile? Your sorry ass with an axe in your head. Now get some new jokes!” Before he knows it, everyone around Holla is getting bumped off faster than a gay guy in The Sopranos.

Aside from the stand-up routines that pepper the film, most of the comedy is derived from seemingly ad-libbed dialogue from the comics, making for a less wacky, less self-parodying film than you’d expect, given the title and movie poster, but from a horror perspective, the body count is impressive, and the kills can be pretty funny in and of themselves (i.e., lots of sharp objects to the head). More zaniness written into the plot, though, and less of the momentum-draining stand-up routines would’ve helped make it a tighter, truer horror comedy. Conceptually, Holla If I Kill You kills; in practice, it could hone its act a bit.

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