johnlink ranks THE KILLING ROOM (2009)

Pulled this suspense flick without having any idea what it was. I had no idea, for example, that Nick Cannon was in it. Or that the dude with the accent from all the Michael Bay movies is one of the leads. This sounded like a horror movie (which it sort of is) and it sounded like a psychological thriller (which it definitely is). Anyway, I watched it.


I watched THE KILLING ROOM (2009) on 5.6.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

Emily (Chloe Sevigny) is a tough chick on a job interview. Her interviewer is the gruff Dr. Phillips (Peter Stormare). He shows her some videos of a particularly brutal past governmental experiment which involves four people. There is the cute and friendly Kerry (Clea DuVall), the quiet and potentially autistic Paul (Nick Cannon), the honest boyfriend type Tony (Shea Whigham), and the tough former criminal Haines (Timothy Hutton). They quickly learn that they will be getting $250 for the experiment, but that only one of the four will live to see the money. The movie starts by killing one of the four and leaving the other three in the aftermath with time-tables to do certain things.

Emily watches this all play out in a mix of horror and curiosity. We soon learn that the ‘past experiment’ only started that morning, and that she will see the remainder of it play out live from behind a one-way mirror. The movie revolves around two different questions: Who, if anyone, will make it out of the killing room alive? Secondly, will Emily be too disgusted to be an innocent bystander, or will she give in to the system?

THE KILLING ROOM is not overly violent, though it features a fair amount of blood. In fact, much of the killing happens off screen, or barely on screen. The shock is in the psychological rather than the visual. There are twists, but they mostly revolve around the question of “Who is next?”. The movie’s final twist works, even if it is supremely cynical.

And cynicism is, in fact, the blood of this film. This is a movie which is anti-government, anti-secret, anti-person, anti-truth, and anti-hope. Anyone who has any dignity or optimism is snubbed out. There is nothing redeeming in the people we are watching behind the glass. Talking about doing something for the good of the country is fine, but it comes across as being the ineffective smokescreen of a psychopath.

The movie looks interesting, even as everything is washed out in overly white tones. The device of having the first chunk of the film being watched on a monitor and the rest played out live is as effective for the audience as it is for the character of Emily. There is more sense of immediacy and danger once the film goes into that second gear.

This is, in many ways, SAW without the violence. THE KILLING ROOM is not as crushingly structured as its predecessor, but it is equally as fatalistic. The performances are nothing special (except, perhaps, for the weight Timothy Hutton surprisingly brings to his criminal nice guy) and the writing doesn’t always find the most nuanced choices. Yet, in the realm of psychological horror, you can certainly do worse.




FINAL SCORE: 5.75 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on May 8, 2014.

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