JANUARY 29, 2010
The main problem with Kill Theory (formerly Last Resort) isn't that it's not very good, it's that it's not good enough for a theatrical release. Had it just gone DTV like countless other Saw wannabes, I'd probably look at it differently and give it a pass. But when it's in theaters, for the same price as every other movie (well, except for Avatar - easy to be number one when every 5 tickets sold is the equivalent of 8 standard ticket prices), it has to be judged on the same lines, and that is where the film fails to measure up.
Now, I must point out that in, heh, theory, I like what After Dark is doing - giving a theatrical release to films that wouldn't quite fit in the multiplexes if given a traditional rollout. They lack stars, they lack big effects, they're usually smaller in scope... even the most commercial entries in years past still wouldn't be able to compete with Drag Me To Hell or the newest Final Destination or Saw sequels. But ADF should focus on films like Dread (which despite the Clive Barker connection, is a tough sell due to the fact that it doesn't fit into a traditional sub-genre) or ZMD, which is a low budget zombie film (of which there are countless thousands these days) but with the brains all those others usually lack. A film like Kill Theory doesn't offer that originality OR intelligence - it's yet another hybrid movie (Battle Royale meets Saw, set in a generic "parent's lakeside house" to add that slasher feel) with an occasionally excruciating script.
I have to mention writer Kelly Palmer, because he is the only one who gets a credit at the top of the film. Director Chris Moore (loved this guy on Project Greenlight - I hope the DVD has a lengthy making of with him doing his thing), the actors, the producers, etc. - they are only credited at the end, which isn't uncommon (if it were up to me, no film would have opening credits). But for some reason, "Written by Kelly Palmer" appears before the title. All this accomplished for me was thinking that the script would be pretty amazing (it's not like Kelly Palmer is a selling point; I could see a film maybe wanting to point out that it was written by Shakespeare or Stephen King at the top, but this is the only produced script for the lad). Which is hilarious, because the writing in the next two scenes is jaw-droppingly terrible. First we get Don McManus as a shrink, telling his patient (read: us) about the guy's own history. "You were on a mountain, and the rope was about to break, so you cut your friends loose in order to save yourself, and that was three years ago..." I momentarily thought that the film was a spoof of such films, and that they were going to cut to the guy saying "Yeah, no shit. I'm me." Anyway, once McManus has delivered all of the exposition we need (for now), we cut to our group of kids, who are, of course, a largely intolerable lot, obsessed with sex and drinking. And there's all of the usual stereotypes for good measure, right down to the fat guy who doesn't have a bed partner as of yet. It's so much like Friday the 13th 3, I kept wondering where the two stoner characters were.
Things pick up a bit once the shit hits the fan though. First, they kill off the least annoying character first, which is ballsy (and the jump scare is pretty terrific as well), and then our killer provides a videotape where he explains the rules of the game - they have until 6 am to kill all but one of themselves, or he will kill them all. See, our killer is the guy from the beginning, and he wants to prove to his shrink that anyone, not just him, would kill their close friends when their life was on the line. Not really the worst theory, but the largely intolerable characters keeps the film from being as interesting as it could have been. As usual, I could care less if any of them died, so it makes no difference to me whether or not they kill each other or are killed by the bad guy. Had they been presented as good, interesting people (or even better/more disturbing - a family), maybe things would be different. But no - one's trying to steal her friend's boyfriend, one's trailer trash, one cheats on his girlfriend, one sucks at Gears of War... good riddance to the lot of ya, I say.
Back to the bad guy, for some reason his identity is kept from us until the end, when it turns out to be (non spoiler) Kevin Gage. Kevin Gage was not a previously seen character in the film, so why they kept him off-screen during the opening scene and then throughout the course of the film is a bit puzzling. I assume maybe they were trying to make us think that one of our "heroes" was the killer, but this doesn't work for two reasons - one, early on he shoots at them when they are all together, and two - they are all long-term friends from college who have been together for four years, and we know the guy was away for 3 for killing his friends on the mountain. So for that to work, the mountain accident would have had to have occurred in high school, and then he would have had to have waited for four years after getting out to prove his shrink wrong. So yeah, no. There is a slight twist to the end, but again, the lack of giving a shit about any of the characters keeps it from being as interesting and/or downbeat as intended.
But again, it's not a flat out terrible film. Some of the scares work, there is an admirable tension for most of the 2nd act of the film, and the lack of favoring one character over another (even Agnes Bruckner, who is about the closest to a star the film has, isn't really in the film more or less than the others) makes it a bit harder to peg the final girl/guy. The killings are also pretty surprisingly vicious; one guy gets beaten to death with a shovel (and then some), and another one's eyeball meets the business end of a fire poker. Plus these kills aren't necessarily carried out by the person you thought would do them, so it adds another layer of enjoyment.
I was also tickled by a particular painting in the living room of the house where the movie takes place. I don't know if it's original art for the movie, or something they found, but I want it for my house. It's basically a guy using binoculars, looking at "you" the viewer. Behind him, laying down, is a naked woman. It sticks out like a sore thumb, and every time it found its way into a shot I couldn't help but giggle. My art knowledge is a bit ignorant (and by bit I mean, "wholly"), so for all I know it's up there with the "Mona Lisa" or "Starry Night", so if you think you know the painting I am referring to (again, assuming it's not an original created for the film) then please let me know who painted it and at what Target I can buy a cheap reprint of it.
So when the films hit DVD, it will probably be considered one of the better ones, as it's the type of hard R fare that will go over well with the types of people who watch Saw films for the torture scenes and think Rob Zombie's Halloween is better than the original. And for the price of a rental, it provides 90 minutes of mildly enjoyable, low grade entertainment. But it's also the type of movie that would have done fine on its own, without the ADF push (well, theoretical push - as with last year, the awareness of the festival is next to nothing as they didn't bother to spend any money marketing it), which makes me wish that ADF had given its slot to a more original, challenging film.
What say you?
P.S. Side trivia note - my very first phone interview for Bloody Disgusting was with Agnes Bruckner, when she was promoting Blood & Chocolate. When we got to the "what are you doing next?" portion of the interview, she told me she was shooting this film. And that was three years ago, so maybe it DID need ADF to get released.