‘Kill Your Lover’ Review: A Smartly Directed and Effective Body Horror Breakup Movie

Kill Your Lover transforms a toxic relationship into a body-horror breakup movie, and it proves that sometimes simple metaphors are the best.

Kill Your Lover began streaming in the United States on June 7th, 2024.

Table of Contents

What is Kill Your Lover About?

Dakota looks away while Axel sits, infected, in a bathtub in Kill Your Lover (2023).
Dakota can’t even look at Axel (and it’s not just because of his horrific infection).

Kill You Lover takes the idea of a “toxic relationship” literally, showing us the breakdown of a doomed relationship with a body-horror infection and bloody violence.

Dakota wants out of her relationship with her live-in boyfriend Axel, but she’s having a difficult time finding the right time to break the news to him. As Dakota prepares to finally say something, Axel comes home suffering from a mysterious illness. His condition worsens significantly when he discovers that Dakota wants to break up with him. Dark patterns form on Axel’s body, and his skin begins to secrete toxic goo. As Dakota and Axel are inevitably drawn into a physical confrontation with each other, memories of their relationship—from hopeful yet awkward beginnings, to arguments and resentment—show us a full picture of how they got to this point.

Dakota and Rose listen for Axel in Kill Your Lover (2023).
Indie horror scream queen May Kelly (on the left) makes a couple of brief appearances in Kill Your Lover.

Kill Your Lover was written and directed by the duo of Alix Austin and Keir Siewert. Starring as Dakota and Axel are Paige Gilmour and Shane Quigley-Murphy respectively. Also featured are May Kelly as Dakota’s friend Rose, and Chloe Wigmore and Joshua Whincup as paramedics.

Kill Your Lover Review

Axel and Dakota appear next to each other in a split screen in Kill Your Lover (2023).
A nicely done split-screen helps set up the story early in Kill Your Lover.

Right away, the most striking thing about Kill Your Lover is how good it looks. For a low-budget movie taking place entirely within two rather unremarkable apartments, it looks great. The many flashbacks look distinctly different from the current time, and even the current time continually evolves its appearance as the characters spiral further and further into sickness and violence. The lighting, production design, and especially the cinematography are all top-notch, and they add a ton of production value to the film as a whole.

Axel smiles in front of a wall filled with Dakota's photographs in Kill You Lover (2023).
Axel is bathed in the light of a neon sign that spells out a sentiment Dakota will later want to tell him directly to his face.

Kill Your Lover is also smartly directed. The story isn’t terribly deep in terms of complex metaphors, but the directors know what aspects of the film to emphasize for the greatest impact. An early example of this is when we see an image of Axel smiling as he looks over his shoulder at Dakota while standing in front of a wall of her photos, symbolically separating Dakota from her own past and personality. It’s a simple metaphor, but it works extremely well. There is also a particularly well-executed split screen sequence early in the movie that perfectly sets up the simmering tension between Axel and Dakota. From beginning to end, Kill Your Lover feels like it was directed with confidence.

Dakota stares angrily at a lamp in Kill Your Lover (2023).
A lamp becomes a potent symbol for Dakota and Axel’s relationship.

The stars, Paige Gilmour and Shane Quigley-Murphy, should also be commended for their committed performances. They are both excellent, portraying the complexity of their characters through their acting choices. Throughout Kill Your Lover, we get to see many different sides of both Dakota and Axel. Axel is clearly the antagonist here, but he is humanized at the same time that we see him becoming ever more monstrous. And Dakota, though she is the more sympathetic of the two, is on a journey of realization about her own role in their doomed relationship. So, even though the story isn’t very complex, the characters are.

Axel's body infects the bathtub in Kill Your Lover (2023).
There are some striking images in Kill Your Lover.

As for the horror parts of Kill Your Lover, they are mostly well done. The infection that spreads across Axel’s body looks amazing at first. Dark lines spread across his skin in organic patterns that grow out, even infecting the very apartment he and Dakota share. As the movie goes on and we see Axel in better light, the infection looks less real and more just like the makeup that it is. It’s a little disappointing in those moments, but it’s redeemed with a well-designed ending sequence that brings back the effectiveness of the body-horror symbolism. Outside of the infection, the blood effects are all well done throughout.

Kill Your Lover Rating and Recommendation

Axel and Dakota look at each other in Kill Your Lover (2023).
Axel and Dakota share a peaceful moment in a flashback.

Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Kill Your Lover is a smart take on a breakup movie that uses body horror and violence in ways that make it both a genre film and a drama film. It’s never too surprising in regards to its story, but at only about 87 minutes long, it’s a quick and fun watch that never drags when it comes to its pacing. Kill Your Lover is highly recommended for horror fans who tend to gravitate towards drama. For viewers who want a lot of body horror, just know that Kill Your Lover never gets too gross or outlandish with the infection, and one of the most violent moments prior to the finale happens off screen, so the body horror is on the tame side.

Kill Your Lover is currently streaming on transactional VOD sites including Amazon Prime Video and Fandango at Home.

Further Reading

Meet The Author

Chris has a degree in film studies at Temple University’s campus in Tokyo, Japan. He is a renowned expert on horror cinema.