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STUDIO: Lionsgate

MSRP: $16.49
RATED: R
RUNNING TIME: 85 Minutes

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • Kill Theory: Behind The Scenes
  • Alternate Openings
  • Deleted Scene
  • Original Trailer
  • Also from Lionsgate
  • Widescreen Presentation
  • English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio
  • English and Spanish Subtitles

The Pitch


I Saw What You Did Last Summer
 
The Humans

Agnes Bruckner, Patrick Flueger, Taryn Manning, and Teddy Dunn.

The Nutshell

A newly-released killer forces a group of college kids to play a deadly game: kill your friends and the last one alive goes free. That ought to prove his worth to society.


“125 Mortality Lane… yep,
this must be the place.”


The Lowdown

With graduation looming, a group of student archetypes go to a plush lake-house for the weekend. Little do they know a freed psycho who sounds like the Trailer Voice Man has been stalking them. He insists his future is free of murder and he has learned that taking lives is wrong, but his tone suggests otherwise. Perhaps he wants to stop by the kids’ place and give them a lecture on the finer points of morality titled Kill Theory: If Your Best Friends Are About To Fall To Their Deaths Whilst Mountain Climbing, Don’t Save Yourself At Their Expense. You’ll Feel Bad! Perhaps he wants to bathe in their gooey innards. Only a brisk running time will tell.

It becomes clear early on that Kill Theory isn’t front-loaded with originality (spoilers imminent!) All but the most inexperienced movie fans will be familiar with kids traveling to the scene of their impending rural demise. It’s a trope almost as well-worn as the characters themselves. The Nice Guy, The Slut, The Jerk, The Nice Girl, Mr. Ethnicity, and Double Whopper are all present and correct. A quick pan around their shiny jeep is about as long as it takes to introduce everyone, since we’ve already met them. Repeatedly. It’s really just an exercise in name-tagging. As if often the case with this kind of movie, though, its real strengths lie in the solid execution of a tried – even tired – formula.


“Hey, guys! I can’t get a
signal. Death must be on his way.”


Kelly Palmer’s script is just the right side of perfunctory, even though the first act’s foreshadowing threatens to block out the sun. Why wouldn’t there be a gun in a safe on the pier? Of course, there’s a “secret” affair that might just consume them all. Rather than ruin the film, these elements allow it to dance on the “so obvious it’s fun” line that Marcus Nispel’s Friday the 13th milked so successfully. In fact, director Chris Moore’s film utilizes a similar visual palette to Jason Redux. Sweeping exteriors of beautiful lake-land remind us just how isolated the house is. A headshot, gouging, and stabbing or two along the way should satisfy a more bloodthirsty viewer, too.

The victims, while stock in every way, are entertaining thanks to some game performances. Flueger’s Good Guy Michael and Duzich’s Misunderstood Skank Amber, in particular, are deserving of special praise. Daniel Franzese fares worse. An arc that runs from “reluctant comedic relief” to “bitter whipping boy turned mentalist” had stacks of potential, but his constant whining soon becomes as irritating to the audience as those trapped with him in the Death House. There’s a point when “GAME OVER, MAN! GAME OVER!” style breakdowns are justified. It’s when you go into the studio to record a duet with Vanilla Ice. Or when you accept that supporting role in Leprechaun Goes Hawaiian. It’s NOT when you’re trapped in a huge house with guns and plenty of backup against one guy. However, a memorable exit scene (see below) compensates for Freddy’s constant whinging. 


Perhaps it wasn’t a good idea
to open an Optical Express in Belfast after all.


For all its familiarity, Kill Theory has one genuinely interesting aspect: its villain. As with Carpenter’s Halloween, the antagonist, Walter, is introduced before his main prey. The film even opens with his release from psychiatric care. On the one hand, this is a transparent means of getting exposition out of the way very quickly and raising interest. On the other, it’s a novel attempt to freshen things up and acknowledge conventions. There’s more to this scene than just a series of teasing POV shots of a fiend’s “layer.” Yes, we’re restricted to mere glimpses of this man. A twitching arm or leg here and there, but it’s enough of an introduction to feel like we know the guy about to go menace random targets. After all, how often do you get to hear The Killer have a chat about his psychological state? It’s a welcome change that actually increases the horror of what’s to come, rather than detract from it.

Not enough films understand that the villain is often the most interesting character so it’s great to see that incorporated so neatly into a picture. Indeed, Kill Theory revolves around the idea that we are all ultimately built for self-preservation (a tagline like “deep down, we’re all killers” is a little blunt for my taste, but it works.) The film addresses the notion that, at a moment’s notice, we too can become killers by detailing Walter’s plummet into moral bankruptcy. His mission, as he sees it, is to teach others this brutal life lesson by forcing them to kill their friends in order to save themselves just as he did. The results are often groan-inducing or unintentionally funny, and the “twist” ending isn’t quite as cool as it’s clearly supposed to be, but there are enough moments of excitement and shovel-trauma to make Kill Theory a disposable but fun “slasher-thriller.”


Now was not the time or the
place to make the requisite “you’ve got red on you” joke.

 
The Package

Two of the three deleted scenes (with commentaries from Moore) are hokey alternate openings. Before deciding to commence the movie with an introduction to the killer, it seems the intention was to show the last group of kids who fell victim to the nefarious Walter. If you snickered at the intro that made the final cut, these awkward moments – both with the same sledgehammer “no-one can be trusted!” twist – will more than likely raise a titter. A tender, preemptive farewell scene between Flueger’s Michael and his girlfriend Jennifer (Bruckner) is unlucky to have been left out. It’s well observed and would’ve provided a nice breather towards the end of the rather swift, shouty second act.

Kill Theory: Behind the Scenes” is your
average puff-piece featurette. The cast extol the wonders of first-time
director Moore and one another in TV spot-style chunks. It’s hard to be
too cynical about this predictable bonus feature since those involved
genuinely seemed to enjoy themselves a great deal making the film
(awww.) On a more technical note, the picture quality is often
distractingly good. Some suitably gloopy death scenes and a generic but
effective alt rock soundtrack round off the disc’s fine presentation.



“I’d like a word with whoever
said I look like the illegitimate lovechild of


Timothy Olyphant and Jared
Padalecki.”

6.0 out of 10