Dressed to Kill

Written by Michael Clawson


Plenty of directors could be described as wearing their influences on their sleeves, but with De Palma, it seems more appropriate to say he holds his up and waves them around over his head so they can’t possibly go unnoticed. 

And I love it! Dressed to Kill structurally imitates Psycho with a mid-movie gear shift (catalyzed by an icy blonde female protagonist being violently slashed to death, no less) while also poaching gender confusion as a means of characterizing its villain. From Vertigo, De Palma highjacks the art museum as the setting for a tense, sexually charged stand off between two strangers. 

Unlike Blow Up and The Untouchables, in which the artistic appropriation is welcome but handled pretty sincerely, the references in Dressed to Kill feel much more playful, even funny. It’s almost absurd how long the museum sequence is drawn out. The lurid shower scenes, which evoke Marion Crane’s infamous demise, are wildly and self-consciously over the top. There’s a mischievousness to it all that keeps it from feeling too self-serious but that also never detracts from the pulpy excitement and suspense. Similar in many ways to Basic Instinct, which I think I do like slightly better, but it’s still nasty, twisted fun.

Dressed to Kill Trailer

Dressed to Kill is currently available to rent or purchase on most major VOD platforms.

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