Malik (Corey Hardrict) and Imani (Jasmine Burke) are a young couple who have just moved into their dream home. Here, Malik and Imani want to start a family and carry hopes for greater things to come. Then there’s Karen (Taryn Manning), who lives directly across the road from Malik and Imani’s home. She instantly installs a security camera in front of her house while Malik and Imani try settling in. When Karen walks over to introduce herself to the new neighbours, she refuses to shake hands, claiming to be germophobic. When Malik makes general conversation and even comments on Karen’s new home security system, she jokes that he is suspicious and perhaps scoping out her house. After this comment is laughed off, the conversation ends with Karen walking off and going about her day.
Karen decides to visit a local coffee shop to meet with a friend. While dining, she is rude and chooses to complain about a pair of black people, claiming they were laughing too loudly and were highly disruptive. If you haven’t worked it out yet, let me spell it out for you- Karen is a highly racist and disrespectful woman. As she returns home, she sets her sights on Malik and Imani and will do anything to remove them from the area, perhaps even doing something sinister. To make matters worse, Karen’s brother, Mike (Roger Dorman), is a police officer who shares the same attitude as his sister.
As a film, Karen is best described as a thriller with added elements of drama thrown in the mix. However, it’s impossible to feel any drama and thrills in this movie. Speaking harshly isn’t always my style, but let’s cut to the chase: Karen is not a good film, and for some viewers, everything is just laughable, filled with cringe-worthy moments. For some viewers, this film will leave you baffled and dumbfounded.
As a character, Karen is not likable, which is perfect because she is the film’s main villain. However, we watch Karen fire off countless rude and racist comments while other characters, including the leads, take the insults or make some outrageous choices. Even when Karen insults their neighbours, they frequently help her or interact instead of taking any action, or, again, they never stand up for themselves with any confidence and strength. Instead of delivering a more positive concept or message regarding racism, the film only makes things worse, and it is, in fact, a major missed opportunity.
The dialogue here is also filled with many problems. The line deliveries and the script itself feel clunky and unnatural. There are many pauses in the dialogue, leaving the conversation lacking any convincing flow and realism for most of the film. Many lines sound silly and outrageous. Aspects, including lighting and visuals, are also uninteresting as if the film was made directly for TV.
Overall, this film had so many possibilities, given the themes. Instead, Karen is a film that gives nightmares to cinema lovers. Filled with clunky dialogue, the character’s choices are either silly, unbelievable, or outrageous. The leading characters are poorly written and never stand up for themselves, making the film more harmful and eye-rolling. Sure, Karen is the ultimate racist and villain here, causing havoc with her rudeness and extreme level of ridiculousness, but she is challenging to watch and difficult to enjoy. Sadly, despite its attempted positive message and breaking the fourth wall during its ending, Karen left me with my eyes rolling. As a film, it doesn’t fall into the category it’s so bad it’s good; it’s just a sloppy film that promises viewers frustration and deep heartache.