Among the wilder branches of pseudoscience to gain popularity during the ‘70s was Kirlian photography, which supposedly allowed researchers to document emotional reactions from plants during exposure to stimuli. The folks behind The Kirlian Witness saw an opportunity to create an unusual thriller, so the hook of their movie is that the only entity present during a murder besides the killer and the victim is a potted plant, putting the onus on the victim’s sister to extract incriminating information from the leafy “witness.” This wacky idea might have made for an offbeat episode of some ’70s detective show, with Columbo or McCloud offering snide commentary until a surprising turn of events challenges skepticism. Taken to feature length, the concept falls apart, especially because the execution of The Kirlian Witness is lifeless. A low-budget indie shot in New York City, the picture has an attractive photographic style—very high-fashion telephoto—but the acting is inert, the pacing is deadly, the plotting is muddy, and the climax features a wannabe-serious scene of a young woman staring at a potted plant to the accompaniment of atmospheric piano music. Here’s the setup. Laurie (Nancy Boykin) operates an NYC plant shop with the help of a weird assistant, Dusty (Ted Le Plat). Both believe in communicating with plants. Laurie’s sister, Rilla (Nancy Snyder) doesn’t share her belief, and neither does Rilla’s tempestuous husband, Robert (Joel Colodener). One evening, someone attacks and kills Laurie. The police rule the death an accident, but Rilla believes otherwise, so she explores every aspect of her late sister’s life. This prompts her to discover a copy of The Secret Life of Plants, the 1973 nonfiction book that helped popularize the idea of talking to flora. Eventually, her investigation catches the attention of the killer, sparking new danger. Despite some okay scoring by Henry Mandredini, the movie is so flat that it often drifts into the realm of accidental self-parody.
The Kirlian Witness: LAME