CONTAINS SPOILERS - MORE SPECIFICALLY GIVES AWAY THE BIG PLOT TWIST AT THE END OF THE MOVIE
There I was, watching a reasonably interesting film with a reasonably good story reasonably well performed and reasonably well shot and directed: it's been running along well enough as an obvious three-star rental, nothing special but nothing disastrous. And then, about 85 minutes in, we're in the closing moments, things are going reasonably well.... and then they stick a nonsensical cop-out ending that instantly - instantly - turns the film into a one-star waste of my time.
Love At First Kill (aka The Box Collector, an equally silly title) is - for about 85 minutes - a reasonably interesting tale of small-town bigotry and clinging mothers. Artist Harry (Noah Segan) lives quietly with his domineering, ranting, Tarot-obsessed mother Beth (Margot Kidder, frankly looking incredibly raddled for someone who's only 62), but when attractive young Marie moves in next door, Beth immediately takes against her for no clear reason. The cards supposedly suggest Marie's in danger, but Harry still wants to leave town with her and start a new life for himself. Harry's also haunted by never having really known his father, and some tinted flashback memories of the night he disappeared. And with Marie's vengeful ex on the trail as well as an increasingly desperate Beth, it can only end badly for all concerned.
Except that the final few minutes completely negate the entirety of the rest of the film. Here's that ending, the big plot twist: it's all in Harry's head. It never happened, everything we've seen took place in his imagination. It's a cheap and insulting payoff that's on a par with "it was all a dream" that means you've spent the evening watching stuff that didn't take place even in the confines of the fictional narrative. This isn't a film about small-town lust and bigotry: it's a film about a bloke having a fantasy. Bolt this ending onto any other movie and see how harmful it suddenly becomes - would we accept The Wicker Man as a masterpiece if it ended with Edward Woodward waking up in horror? Or Kurt Russell waking up at the end of The Thing? It's boring, it's cheap and it's insulting. It's also old, of course - we've had "suddenly waking up" endings since The Wizard Of Oz. (Yes, there are shock awakenings at the ends of films such as Carrie and Dressed To Kill, but the dreams weren't the entire narratives.)
The really frustrating aspect of it is that the film was trundling along perfectly well up to that point and didn't need to be derailed in such a manner. It could have ended in several other ways which would still have succeeded or failed, but at least they would have been part of the actual film. For them to suddenly pull the "haha! None of it's real!" card is as jarring as that hideous moment in Brian De Palma's otherwise enjoyable Femme Fatale when Rebecca Romijn suddenly comes to in the bath. This isn't The Usual Suspects either, where the sleight of hand is the whole point. Don't waste my time.