Kill Theory

Derivatives in calculus and on Wall Street are complicated things indeed. Derivatives in slasher flicks, however, are the exact opposite. Predictability occurs from the outset without the use of pens, paper, or calculators. One man, one mission. Many victims, many weapons. If you're thinking the After Dark Horrorfest was going to put forth the one film that broke down those contrivances, and that the film eschewing them is Kill Theory, then you're certainly an optimist. Though some interesting things happen because of it, the film's central concept is retarded and does little to further the genre in any way. Graves in Flatland are deeper. Kill Theory begins with an expository scene between the nameless antagonist and his psychiatrist, Dr. Truftin, played by the criminally underused Don McManus. The former mountain-climbing bad guy is just being released for the murder of his three best friends. During a climb, there were complications that left the four of them hanging from a single rope that began ripping from their combined weight. So the killer cuts the rope, sacrificing his friends for his own assured safety. It seems like a solid option to me, but apparently it's looked down upon in the prison and mental-health communities. Add to that the actual "insanity" this guy goes through, and the motive is made clear. Wait, it's not? Well, it's got to be around here somewhere.

Enter the stock cast of worry-free twentysomethings, all celebrating college graduation by holing up in a house miles and miles away from civilization in hopes of getting as fucked up as possible, maybe while having some sex. Brent (Teddy Dunn) is the son of the homeowners, and Amber (Ryanne Duzich) is his girlfriend, even though she's still got the hots for Michael (Patrick Flueger), who is dating Jennifer (Agnes Bruckner). Carlos (Theo Rossi) and Nicole (Steffi Wickens) are the couple free from love triangles. As the odd man out, there's Freddy (Daniel Franzese), the jovial fat guy, even though he's football-player fat instead of pie-contest fat, and he isn't all that jovial. I think that's called "flipping the script." Upon this group's arrival at the house, we meet Brent's sassy step-sister, Alex (Taryn Manning). It's incredibly rare for Taryn Manning to be my favorite cast member, but here it is.

The theme of this film is the limits of friendship, and I commend the first-time writer Kelly Palmer for bothering with a theme at all. However, the roads taken to draw this theme out are rocky ones. Brent clearly doesn't like Freddy too much, and as such, Freddy puts a load of Tabasco sauce in a hamburger he cooks for Brent. Amber and Jennifer are good friends, but the underlying jealousy corrupts things. Alex doesn't care for anyone except Freddy, because he's a nice guy, not because she wants to sleep with him. But Mike likes everyone, man; he's like a closet hippie. The only people who are in complete harmony with everyone else are Carlos and Nicole, and you know what that means.

As everyone sleeps later that night, Freddy wakes up to Nicole's cut-up body crashing through the room's window. The letters "T.V." are carved into her torso, so the group watches footage from a video camera connected to the TV. On it, Nicole is given a gun by the nameless villain, and is told to shoot Carlos if she wants to live. She doesn't do this, and so she's killed. Then the stakes are laid out on the table. By six a.m., only one person can be left alive; if more than that are still breathing, then everyone dies. See, what he's doing is making people relive the decision he had to make when hanging from the mountain, and he un-eloquently tries to convey this message at several points in the movie. Understanding this, I think it makes Nicole's decision irrelevant, since there's no guarantee she'll live if she kills Carlos. But them's the ropes.

As you can imagine, there are more moral decisions that have to be made by some or all of the characters, usually with obvious conclusions. There is some major over-acting going on during much of this, particularly from Freddy, who teeters maniacally between docile and loony. The real stars in a horror movie are supposed to be the deaths, but there are no outstanding kills here. There's a bear-trap thing, which is pretty cool, but most of the terror comes from the villain's rifle, hardly a genre-worthy weapon. Much of the characters' screen time has them dwelling on the choices that have to be made for survival, but the tension is minimal because they're all assholes who don't really care about each other. When the killer mentions the strong friendship he had with his climbing buddies, it makes this group look pathetic enough that the last person standing isn't justified in his or her success. Recognizing this, I still enjoyed the last 10 minutes of the movie more than the previous 80 (because one character loses their shit), and the very final scene is kind of a shock, though only because I wasn't looking for it.

As crappy horror movies go, this is nothing special, but it's quite a few steps above all of the remakes and rehashings of the modern horror classics. The writing could use fewer F-words and more breasts, and the direction could use better framing and more breasts, but it will have to do. It's a throwaway flick that should be viewed in the company of friends and booze, because if you watch it alone, you only have yourself to blame. I'm almost thankful for the skimpy special features, because a commentary glorifying things would have been grosser than the eye-gouging scene. There are two alternate opening scenes, peppered with commentary, that had another set of victims ending their own night of friend killings, but it was decided that it worked better for the story if he hadn't set anyone up previous to this film's time setting. It makes a lot more sense this way. There's another deleted scene whose absence is welcome. Finally, there's an okay behind-the-scenes featurette that does a standard job of showing you the scenes, and what goes on behind them. It always bothers me to see people enjoying making something that lacks quality. Save this disc for the dollar-rack rental.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.