Judge David Johnson has a killing room in his house. It's an interesting conversation piece for visitors.
Once you're in, there's no way out.
Here's the latest entry in the emerging genre of a-bunch-of-strangers-get-trapped-in-a-room-where-bad-things-happen-for-90-minutes.
Facts of the Case
Four people, recruited to take part in a study, find themselves in a sterile, white room with no clear idea what they have to do. Boredom turns to terror, when one of the scientists (Peter Stormare, Prison Break) comes in, makes small talk and shoots one of them in the head. Panic ensues, odd challenges are delivered from unknown watchers, and the body count slowly rises.
Turns out, these folks are unwitting test subjects in a top secret government research program. For the newest analyst (Chloe Sevigny), the horrors that unspool—and the ultimate revelation of the purpose of "the killing room"—will conflict her conscience.
The Killing Room is a polished, well-acted thriller that messes around with the formula a bit, before imploding with its own silly endgame.
The curve ball the filmmakers throw is nifty, a welcome diversion to the way these things usually shake out. Instead of having the characters themselves figure out what the @#$% is going on, we get a behind-the-scenes peek at the folks pulling the strings. There is still plenty of mystery, as the actual point to all the mayhem isn't unveiled until the very end. Sevigny's character asks at first, but is promptly denied, leaving the audience twisting in the wind. Pretty much the only thing that can be deduced is that this benefits national security or something, not that the Jigsaw killer or whoever is just messing around with these fools.
This approach has its ups and downs. On the positive side, it is a shake-up to what the textbook says should happen, and the chatter behind the glass as the nameless bureaucrats run around to pull the scenario together is cool. Plus, Sevigny gets some material to work with as the conflicted newbie and, essentially, our window into this whacked-out world. The trade-off, however, is a dip in the tension. The unknown manipulator, as familiar a convention as it may have become, does at least bring with it a good amount of suspense; with the curtain pulled, the entirety of the suspense rests on the question: why in the world are these people doing all of this crap?
Which brings us to the self-inflicted mortal wound of a plot twist. It's a testament to the plotting of the film that I had no clue what was coming; hey, there are only so many things the government can be up to, right? Since The Killing Room is relatively grounded in reality, they weren't re-animating Revolutionary War zombies or something. I was certainly surprised by the finale, what a shockingly stupid conclusion. In fact, it's one of the dumbest twists I've seen in a while. I don't know how it ever made it past the first draft of the screenplay.
That's all I'll say. You're going to have to experience this one yourself.
A bare bones DVD awaits: 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital surround, no extras.
A decent thriller shoots itself in the groin with a laughable twist. Pass on this one.
Guilty. Remodel the killing room into a nice den or vestibule.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
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