The easiest way to summarize my feelings towards The Columnist: it’s the exact type of movie I thought I was getting when I watched Promising Young Woman. It’s the epitome of a revenge tale, complete with a saucy writer who literally takes aim at her faceless online bullies. They tweet things like “we should skewer this woman cunt-first by a pole on the beach,” then Femke comes in for the kill. Femke Boot (Evil’s Katja Herbers) becomes a surprising feminist icon—and serial killer—in this R-rated horror comedy.
The biggest thing missing from The Columnist is the bite of brutal violence, which is only glimpsed. The gory aspect of Femke’s middle finger “kill trophy” that she retrieves from each victim is really the nastiest the film ever gets. Still, there are satisfying bits of grotesque dispatch, including a fun montage of continuous kills. While the gore itself could’ve been spruced up (especially given the R-rating), the character of Femke Boot is no pushover. She’s a strong, fiercely opinionated woman who absolutely takes no shit from anybody. In her own words: “You called the wrong fucking whore a fucking whore.” Katja Herbers plays this role with passion and commitment, a batshit female performance worthy of greats like Rebecca De Mornay in 1992’s The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and Kathy Bates in 1990’s Misery.
The Columnist treads through political waters, but never beats you over the head with any of its messages. It always leaves things up to the viewer to make an ultimate stance one way or another. Femke certainly seems to think our culture needs a major reset. Just when she was ready to say “goodbye to this medium forever,” Femke was pulled back in by the harshness of online trolls. Everyone has some hate inside them, so why not release it? The stylish film from director Ivo Van Aart closes with the book launch of Femke’s newest novel; it’s an ending which goes out in a striking bang. The biggest takeaway: if you’re an online troll with nothing better to do, you’d better be careful who you piss off.
The Columnist hits its deadline via streaming and limited release theaters on Friday, May 7th.