Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kill Theory

Here’s another film from the After Dark Film Festival package, 2009’s Kill Theory. As has been mentioned many times before, the films in this series have been a mixed bag, more potential than payoff, but I can give Kill Theory a very cautious thumbs-up, with a few criticisms.

The plot is very simple. A group of college seniors (who all look a few years too old) take one last trip together before graduation at an isolated lake house belonging to the father of one of the group. The outing goes bad when a psychopath targets the group on the first night. They are a part of his macabre experiment, and are given the choice to survive. All they have to do is kill all their friends, and they can live. If only one is alive at dawn, that one goes free; if more than one, all the survivors die. Anyone trying to leave dies at the hands of the psycho. As you can imagine in a movie of this type, paranoia sets in, and the body count rises.

It’s a variation on the slasher model, with the victims forced to perform some of the slashing themselves, but it works fairly well. The cast, which includes genre stalwart Agnes Bruckner and Teddy Dunn from Veronica Mars, ranges from professionally competent to pretty good. The plot is decent, and the pace is fast enough you can skim over the bigger inconsistencies. They are, in my opinion, two big problems which keep this from being a great film.

The first one is the now familiar one of having a completely unlikeable cast of characters. These are obnoxious people, none of whom you would want to know in real life (remember, I’m referring to the characters, not the actors, so no angry comments from their fans). The only tolerable character is as painfully stupid as the rest of them. The problem with this is if you hate everyone in the movie, it’s hard to get invested in whether they get cut in half by one of the killer’s traps or not. When one of them meets death-by-shovel, I imagine most viewers are fine with his fate. Interestingly, in the 8 minute “making of” feature, one of the actors says what attracted him to the role was his character’s “arc.” What makes this interesting is the arc in question runs from being an asshole to being an asshole. Less an arc than a straight line.

The other problem is the entirely irrational response the group has to the threat. They must go to a college with low standards, because they either come completely apart or behave as stupidly as possible in order to get killed. Obviously, the correct response is to band together, work to harden their defenses, and wait for the killer to attack so they can confront him en masse. The killer has a rifle and a funky knife that looks cool but is probably ineffective. The victims have two pistols, assorted knives, blunt objects, and improvised projectiles to throw at the bad guy. I’d say the miscreant would have a hard time taking the group, since he starts out out-numbered eight-to-one.

Even with it’s problems, I was reasonably entertained, and Kill Theory compares favorably with most of the slashers turned out, with the plot somewhat more original. The twist was not what I thought it would be, but the second most likely instead.

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