Karla (film)

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Directed by Joel Bender
Produced by Marlon Parry & Michael D. Sellers
Written by Joel Bender
Manette Rosen
Michael D. Sellers
Starring Laura Prepon
Misha Collins
Cinematography Charles Mills
Brandon Trost
Edited by Joel Bender
Distributed by Quantum Entertainment
Release dates
  • 2006 (2006)
Running time
99 min.
Country United States
Language English

Karla is a 2006 American-Canadian psychological thriller film. The film is based on the true story of Canada's two most notorious serial killers, Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, though the names of the victims were changed, with the exception of Karla's sister.[1]


The film starts with a framing device of psychologist Dr. Arnold (Patrick Bauchau) in a session with Karla Homolka (Laura Prepon) at Canada's Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Dr. Arnold's evaluation will determine Karla's eligibility for parole. During the session, Dr. Arnold shows Karla a photo album of herself and her husband Paul Bernardo (Misha Collins) in happier times, and Karla has a memory of how they first met. However, when Dr. Arnold introduces the subject of Karla's sister Tammy, Karla becomes uncooperative. Over the following weeks, Dr. Arnold probes Karla about her knowledge of Paul's secret life as a serial rapist, and it is revealed that shortly before their marriage Paul began to rape women.

Paul is open with Karla about his crimes, yet Karla does not object to them, even when Paul begins to bring his victims home. Although disturbed at that part of Paul's life, Karla learns to accept it. At Paul's request, Karla hesitantly participates in these assaults. During one such assault, Paul strangles his victim after the girl sees his face. He cuts the body into pieces and seals them in cement blocks, which he then dumps into a lake. On the day of Paul and Karla's wedding, the girl's body is discovered. Paul stops raping and abducting for a time, but his anxiety and pent-up frustration cause him to become violent toward Karla. Paul's friends see the change in his personality and break off from him. Meanwhile Karla, suffering from the abuse and desperate to reclaim his affections, helps Paul abduct and rape another young girl, "Kaitlyn Ross" (based on Kristen French).

Kaitlyn's disappearance immediately attracts a storm of media and police attention, so Paul kills Kaitlyn to be rid of her. As part of the investigation, the police arrive at Paul's house. Paul is very cooperative so the police leave satisfied, but, afterwards, he beats Karla mercilessly. Karla takes refuge with friends before reporting the assault. Paul is then booked under domestic violence but is released after only one night in jail.

Back at the Regional Psychiatric Centre, Dr. Arnold asks Karla about her relationship with her younger sister (Tammy Homolka) and her jealousy towards Tammy because of Paul's attraction to her. Karla confesses that Paul wanted to take Tammy's virginity and that he wanted Karla to "give" Tammy to him. Karla agrees to help him rape her sister.

One Christmas Eve, Karla and Paul give Tammy a drug-laced alcoholic drink until Tammy passes out. Karla presses a rag soaked in animal tranquilizer against her sister's face so that she will not regain consciousness while Paul rapes her. Paul begins recording the assault on video and demands that Karla participate, striking Karla when she hesitates. In the middle of the assault, Tammy starts to choke. Karla and Paul panic and attempt to revive her before calling 9-1-1. While Karla disposes of the tranquilizers, Paul dresses Tammy and hides the video tape, though the tranquilizer-soaked rag has left a chemical burn on Tammy's face. Police and ambulance arrive, but Tammy is pronounced dead at the hospital.

Karla tells Dr. Arnold that Paul became obsessed with Tammy and kept watching the video after her death, even showing it to friends. Paul also threatened to reveal Karla's role in her sister's murder if he should get into any more trouble, but Karla finally leaves him anyway.

Shortly thereafter the DNA samples Paul provided as part of the Scarborough rape investigation are matched to the evidence found on one of the murder victims. Both he and Karla are subsequently arrested. During the trial, Paul testifies that Karla killed Kaitlyn Ross with a mallet. Karla denies all the killings. Paul is convicted on two counts of murder without any possibility of parole. Karla is given a sentence of twelve years in exchange for a guilty plea for manslaughter.

The film ends with a note explaining that Karla's parole was denied, as the psychologist found her artificial, manipulative and without remorse.


The film was originally titled Deadly but was renamed Karla before its release. The script is based on court transcriptions, interviews and video shot by Homolka and Bernardo.


The film caused significant controversy in Canada, where the families of victims Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy initially said that the film exploited the memory of their daughters. Politicians in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, including Attorney General Michael Bryant, have called for a boycott of the film, and one Canadian theatre chain, Cineplex Odeon, stated that it will show the film only in its major urban markets in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. The film was originally booked to debut at the 2005 Montreal World Film Festival, until protests by Air Canada,[2] a corporate sponsor of the festival, shelved the idea.

Lawyer Tim Danson, who represented the French and Mahaffy families, watched a private screening of the film in September with the families in attendance. The following month, he announced that the families would not oppose the film's Canadian release.


  1. ^ Hays, Matthew (2005-08-12). "A First Look at Karla". CBC. Retrieved 2012-01-29. 
  2. ^ A First Look at Karla August 12, 2005


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