JUNE 25, 2012
Combining the most tired of slasher backdrops (kids partying in an abandoned locale that was the site of a tragedy) with a shockingly common plot device in horror films (real estate!), Killer Instinct is the most boring and lackluster film I’d ever recommend that you watch. Not that it’s a “so bad it’s good” type affair or features a future star in a bit role, but simply because it’s one of the more bafflingly constructed slasher films I’ve ever seen, and I'd like someone else to verify that, so I know I'm not crazy.
See, the slasher stuff in the asylum is pretty typical – the kids arrive, spend an inordinate amount of time playing pranks on each other, and then finally separate into pairs so that they can fornicate and die. It’s textbook stuff for a while, but there’s a great falling glass kill and a funny rolling head gag, and it takes the unusual step of killing the four guys first before focusing on the girls. Not only does this go against the modern slasher “rule” of letting a guy and a girl survive, but it also further solidifies one of the film’s few strengths – it’s not readily apparent who the Final Girl is. Sure, it’s mostly due to the fact that the kids are all interchangeable to the extent that you might even confuse some of the girls for the guys, but let’s just pretend that the screenwriters didn’t want to be so obvious with their heroine’s identity.
But then there’s the real estate stuff, which is what puts the movie in close proximity to WTF territory. Dee Wallace plays a liaison for some big food company who wants to buy Corbin Bernsen’s meat packing plant, and he doesn’t want to sell because the plant is the life blood of the town and people will lose their jobs and blah blah. It’s a story that would barely hold the audience’s interest if Bernsen was playing Arnie and this was LA Law, so why anyone thought it would be a good fit with a teen slasher flick is a far more compelling mystery than the one in the film.
Worse, it only intersects with the slasher plot in the very last scene, and it’s so clunkily depicted I’m not even sure I understood what they were up to the whole time. But even if it was the greatest plot twist of all time and delivered in a flawless manner, I’m still not sure it was worth the jarring back and forth way it was presented throughout the past 80 minutes. We never get to know any of the teens very well (even catching their names takes effort), and part of that is because the script needs to keep leaving them off-screen for long stretches so we can watch Wallace look through records or argue with Bernsen. This also results in the slasher part of the movie not having much time for any good stalk or chase scenes; even good shots of the killer are rare.
The direction is equally grating; director Ken Barbet apparently never learned about inserts and closeups, so several scenes just unfold in master shots with the camera constantly panning around, making me dizzy much quicker than any Bourne or found footage movie ever did. I also got some douche chills while watching due to the excess of nudity, including an early outdoor romp that doesn’t even lead to a death scene. I’m all for some skin, but it feels like it’s there as the result of a reshoot (“Nothing happens in this reel! Get some girl to take her top off, figure it out!”), I get a bit skeeved out.
Also the ending involves a character memorizing a taped copy of news so she can “prove” she was home all night, when she was really with the others and seemingly involved with their deaths. The plot also needs us to believe that this group of pals are all the (sole?) children of a group of folks who murdered a guy 15 years before, not unlike Nightmare On Elm Street but without the, you know, all living on the same street aspect. No, their fathers were all business partners, and now they’re all pals. Sorry, I don’t buy it; we’ve all had one or two pals that we were sort of forced to be friends with because of our parents’ association, but ALL of their friends? And all of this information is given to us at the end of the film in one long montage/exposition babble, so it seems like they just made two bland movies and then drunkenly came up with a way to tie them together for anyone that hadn’t fallen asleep yet.
Oh well. At least it has a song from the band Bonehead over the end credits. Good band. Just a shame that they’re forever associated with this bad movie.
What say you?