KillJoy is the story of a family homicide in a small Australian town, told from the distinctive point of view of a child. It investigates what led to the killing, and what it leaves in its wake.
KillJoy is also a murder mystery: not because there is any doubt that Kathryn’s father Allan killed their mother Carolyn, but because Kathryn grew up largely unaware of what had happened to her, and with little information about who she was. As Kathryn becomes a teenager, they begin to ask questions and gradually, unravel the past. At seventeen Kathryn gains access to their father’s murder trial transcript and the undeniable truth is revealed; they are living alone with the man who killed their mother, in the house it happened in.
The 1985 homicide divided the rural town of Lismore; many of whom supported Allan, the pharmacist, because it is revealed Carolyn, the schoolteacher and former Miss Lismore, had been having an affair. There is a blue-collar vs white-collar undertone to the local discourse. In trial, the defence of provocation was used to reduce the charge of murder to a conviction of manslaughter, and in the end, Allan served 3 years for killing his wife and the mother of 3 young children. On his release, he was able to resume raising his children. KillJoy questions whether a killer should be able to raise his children, and whether the provocation of an extramarital affair should mitigate guilt?
Children who have lost parents unnaturally young can struggle to conceive of life beyond the dead parent’s age. Kathryn feels a sense of time running out as they approach their mother’s age of 32 and is determined to somehow connect with the mother they were deprived of. Kathryn contacts Carolyn’s closest friends and her former lover for stories about her. KillJoy follows Kathryn as they discover the truth of who Carolyn was; how she lived, and why she died. Kathryn organises a memorial for her on what would have been her 64th birthday. It brings together a hundred people who finally have the chance to celebrate her life and grieve her death. As the day Kathryn will surpass their mother's age approaches, they fall into a deep depression and it’s unclear whether they will make it through. Thankfully, Kathryn does.
KillJoy reveals a deep access to Kathryn’s inner world as they actively manage the lifelong impacts and mental-health challenges that occur when your father has killed your mother. Today Kathryn works as a researcher at The University of Melbourne, interviewing children like themselves, bereaved by domestic homicide. Kathryn’s story is a beacon of hope for victims of family violence everywhere, demonstrating that as difficult as it may be, one can survive the tragedy and trauma, and live a life full of meaning and joy.
Though positive change is happening, the rate of domestic violence related homicides in Australia continues to increase. And yet, there remains a lack of honest renditions of the issue on our screens; a problem KillJoy seeks to address. In a reversal of true-crime tropes that treat dead women as evidence and obsess over male perpetrators’ stories, KillJoy unapologetically privileges the victim-survivor point of view.
It affirms that children’s experiences of family homicide are critically important, and that women like Carolyn who die at the hands of their intimate partners weekly in Australia, are remembered as people, not just victims.
This is why this story matters now.