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Theatrical release poster
Directed byDominic Sena
Produced bySteve Golin
Aristides McGarry
Sigurjón Sighvatsson
Screenplay byTim Metcalfe
Story byStephen Levy
Tim Metcalfe
Music byCarter Burwell
CinematographyBojan Bazelli
Edited byMartin Hunter
Distributed byGramercy Pictures
Release date
  • September 3, 1993 (1993-09-03) (United States)
  • September 8, 1993 (1993-09-08) (France)
  • November 25, 1993 (1993-11-25) (Germany)
Running time
117 minutes
118 minutes (Unrated cut)
CountryUnited States
Budget$8.5 million[1]
Box office$2,395,231

Kalifornia is a 1993 American road thriller film directed by Dominic Sena and starring Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis, David Duchovny, and Michelle Forbes. The film focuses on a graduate student (Duchovny) and his photographer girlfriend (Forbes) traveling cross-country to research serial killings, who unwittingly carpool with a serial killer (Pitt) and his childlike girlfriend (Lewis).

The film was released in September 1993 in the United States, and received mixed to positive reviews from critics.[2][3]


Brian Kessler (David Duchovny), a graduate student in psychology, is also a journalist whose article about serial killers has gotten him an offer for a book deal from a publisher. After the advance payment is spent, Brian realizes that he needs to start working on finishing his book. His girlfriend Carrie Laughlin (Michelle Forbes), a photographer, persuades him to move to California, and they decide to take a road trip from Louisville, Kentucky to California and visit infamous murder sites along the way. Short on funds, Brian posts a ride-share ad.

Meanwhile, psychopathic parolee Early Grayce (Brad Pitt) has just lost his job. His parole officer (Judson Vaughn) learns of this and comes to the trailer park where Early lives with his young girlfriend Adele Corners (Juliette Lewis). Early refuses the officer's offer of a job as a janitor at Brian's college, saying he wants to leave the state, but the officer pressures him into keeping his appointment for the job interview. However, when Early is on his way out, he is confronted by his landlord over non-payment of rent. Early becomes violent and spins out in his car, chasing the man all over the park.

Early sees the ride-share ad and calls Brian, who agrees to meet him the following day. Early sends Adele ahead, then murders his landlord before joining her to wait for Brian and Carrie. Carrie's first response to seeing the rough-hewn couple is to suggest Brian keep driving, but reluctantly agrees when Brian asks to give them a chance. On the road, unbeknown to his companions, Early murders a man in a gas station bathroom and steals his money. When they arrive at their first hotel, Early cuts Adele's long hair shorter to try to match Carrie's.

At another hotel, Early invites Brian out to play pool, leaving Adele and Carrie alone together. Adele explains that her mother did not approve of her relationship, because Early had just been released from prison. Adele reveals to Carrie that she is a rape victim and that she views Early as her protector, even though he has beaten her. While Carrie and Adele are drinking beer, Adele also admits to Carrie that Early forbids her to smoke or drink. Meanwhile, at a local bar, Early assaults a man who confronts Brian. Later on in the road-trip, Early introduces Brian to pistol shooting in a remote, unnamed location.

Carrie is alarmed by Brian's growing fascination with Early, and by Brian's nonchalant response to the news that Early has been in prison. After catching Early and Adele having sex in the car, she gives Brian an ultimatum: either they rid themselves of the pair, or she will leave. At the next gas station, Carrie glimpses a news report about Early being a suspected murderer. Early kills the gas station attendant in front of Carrie and continues the trip with the couple as hostages. The party encounter two police officers, whom Early shoots and kills. They next come to the home of an elderly couple. Early beats the man to death, but Adele allows the woman to flee.

As Early rushes to find the woman, Adele confronts him and says she wants nothing more to do with him. Early kills Adele, strikes Brian on the head, and kidnaps Carrie. Brian regains consciousness, and the elderly woman gives him the keys to her truck. Brian arrives at an abandoned nuclear testing site and surprises Early, hitting him in the face with a shovel. Brian finds Carrie handcuffed to a bed, having been sexually assaulted. Early, who was only stunned, attacks Brian and they struggle until Early is hit over the head by Carrie. When Early continues the attack, Brian shoots and kills him.

Some time later, Brian and Carrie are living in a California beach house. Carrie tells Brian that a gallery is interested in her art, and he suggests they go out to celebrate. The pair leave, although Brian's tape recorder continues running to reveal a "thank you" from Adele.



Originally titled California, the script was written by Tim Metcalfe with Stephen Levy in 1987. Metcalfe later commented their intentions were "to scare an audience, to comment on our national obsession with 'true crime' stories, and to punish myself for my morbid preoccupation with the subject of murder and murderers."[4] The script was optioned in November 1990 by Propaganda Films, by request of director Dominic Sena.[1] Sena would go on to mention his positive impression on the script was mainly based on the premise and the character of Early Grayce.

Between November 1990 and March 1991, Metcalfe completed two rewrites of the script to implement changes requested by Sena and Propaganda Films.[1] The characters of Brian and Carrie were given professions as a writer and a photographer, respectively, while retaining the original premise to share a ride with a serial killer. Metcalfe disagreed on the direction the script was being developed,[4] while Sena and the producers found his rewrites "uninspiring".[1] In March 1991, Metcalfe was fired from the project.

Without the budget to hire another writer, Sena, along with his two producers, spent another year writing ten subsequent drafts of the script.[1] Their contributions included the voice-over narration of the character of Brian, along with a change of tone from a black comedy to a more violent thriller.[4] Sena maintained the rewrites helped them to secure the cast, as well as an increase to the originally proposed budget of $4.5 million.

Some of the early scenes were filmed in an old industrial area west of downtown Atlanta.[5]


Kalifornia - Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedAugust 3, 1993
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic2/5 stars[6]
1."Do You Need Some?"Matt MercadoMind Bomb6:25
3."Deep"Tony MortimerEast 174:04
4."When You Come Back"Kevn Kinney, Tim Nielson, Jeff Sullivan, Buren FowlerDrivin N Cryin3:00
5."No One Said It Would Be Easy"Sheryl Crow, Bill Bottrell, Kevin Gilbert, Dan SchwartzSheryl Crow5:29
6."I Love the World"Angelique BiancaThe Indians5:36
7."Lettuce and Vodka"Exene Cervenka, John Doe, Duke McVinnieX5:05
8."Accelerator"Andrew Cairns, Fyfe Ewing, Michael McKeeganTherapy?2:08
9."Born for Love"David BaerwaldDavid Baerwald6:17
10."Dive Bomber"Sean DicksonSoup Dragons2:44
11."Look Up to the Sky"Angelique BiancaThe Indians7:20
12."Kalifornia/Cactus Girl"Carter BurwellCarter Burwell4:11

Other songs featured in the film that are not included on the soundtrack include "89 Lines" by Daniel O'Brien, "Seven Days" by Hugh Harris, "Playin' in the Dirt" by Heather Myles, "Strong Enough" by Sheryl Crow, "Come Home" by Pere Ubu, "(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66" by Asleep at the Wheel, "Symphony No. 8 in F Major Op. 93" by Ludwig van Beethoven and Brad Pitt partially singing part of Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd.[7]

Comic book adaptation[edit]

Following the completion of the film, DC Comics commissioned a comic book adaptation from writer Chuck Dixon and artist Duncan Fegredo.[8] Fegredo recalled the 32-page adaptation was planned to be released as a supplementary for the film's video release. The adaptation was never completed beyond some coloring work done by Danny Vozzo. Fegredo has speculated this was due to the demise of Gramercy Pictures, a production company involved handling the rights. An uncolored version, complete with Fegredo's original cover art, has since been uploaded to the Internet.[8]


Kalifornia received generally mixed to positive reviews. It holds a 65% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, an average score of 6.3/10, sampled from 26 reviews.[2] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 49 out of 100, determined from 17 critics' reviews, signifying "mixed or average reviews".[3] Roger Ebert gave the film a full four stars, noting that Pitt and Lewis give "two of the most harrowing and convincing performances I've ever seen".[9]

Kalifornia was a box office bomb, only grossing $2,395,231[10] based on a supposed $9 million budget. The film would go on to win various awards at international film festivals, including one for Best Screenplay, credited to Tim Metcalfe.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e 'Kalifornia' Rewrite No 'Cut-and-Paste', Dominic Sena, Los Angeles Times, 10-25-93. Accessed 03-10-12.
  2. ^ a b "Kalifornia (1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Kalifornia (1993)". Metacritic. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  4. ^ a b c The Real 'Kalifornia' Got Lost in the Filmmaking Journey, Tim Metcalfe, Los Angeles Times, 09-27-93. Accessed 03-10-12.
  5. ^ "E. Van Winkle Gin and Machine Works".
  6. ^ William Ruhlmann. "Kalifornia". AllMusic.
  7. ^ "Kalifornia (1993)". IMDb.
  8. ^ a b Kalifornia by Duncan Fegredo & Chuck Dixon, Sex, Drugs & Comic Books, 12-31-11. Accessed 03-10-12.
  9. ^ http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/kalifornia-1993
  10. ^ Kalifornia at Box Office Mojo
  11. ^ Awards for Kalifornia, IMDb. Accessed 03-10-12.

External links[edit]