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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 08.13.09] USA movie review horror thriller drama

Year: 2009
Directors: Jonathan Liebesman
Writers: Gus Krieger, Ann Peacock
IMDB: link
Amazon: Link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 7 out of 10

Back in the 50s and 60s the American government conducted a rash of freaky experiments on unsuspecting citizens. The code name for the covert CIA mind-control and chemical research program was called MK-ULTRA and basically it was like an evil version of the Dharma Initiative. There were research stations all over the States, each testing different things and none of them really knew how their work effected the whole or influenced a final master plan. Citizens who signed up were fed all kinds of drugs, like LSD and then shown disturbing images or hypnotized or much much worse. Honestly, as f-ed up as it sounds, I'm not making this up. You can read all about it on wikipedia. Long story short, the government eventually shut all MK-ULTRA stations down in the 70s and destroyed most of the evidence of it even existing.

The Killing Room, a new thriller from the director of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, works under the assumption that these experiments are still going on under-the-radar and hypothesizes what one particular station might be trying to do to people. For viewers who like the Saw franchise but not necessarily all that stomach churning torture porn The Killing Room is probably a safe bet. While incredibly violent in tone, it doesn't indulge in too much gory imagery. It's a classy independent thriller all the way which, while not perfect, is well worth a spin.

The set up of The Killing Room is a little different than most of the latest people-in-a-room thrillers. Unlike the above mentioned Saw, or even the Cube trilogy, the four characters who find themselves guinea pigs do not wake up in a room without a memory, or have no idea how they got there. They are all volunteers - a rag-tag group of down-on-their-luck regular people who are looking for a little extra cash. They have also been screened as people who won't be missed.

On the other side of the glass fishbowl is Emily Riley (played by Chloe Sevigny), a fiercely ambitious military body-language expert who is on the job interview of a lifetime. Brought into the fold by Dr Phillips, (played to deadpan, creepy perfection by the great Peter Stormare), she is tested on her clinical and physiological observation skills, totally unaware that she's witnessing an underground MK-ULTRA experiment.

These kinds of films are usually a blast to watch, because really we're in that room along with the subjects trying to piece together the clues and figure out what the heck is going on. It's a smart formula that usually works to create some great suspense, but by showing us what's going on on both sides of the experiment I fear that some of that crucial mystery gets lost in The Killing Room. As soon as we know more than the four subjects in the room the suspense starts to dissipate a bit. And, even though Liebesman makes an effort to injects a little suspense in the Sevigny / Stormare storyline it's just not as powerful. Plus, Sevigny does little else then stare at television screens looking tense the whole time, in fact halfway through the film, Verity actually turned to me and said "if that's all it takes, I should be an actor."

Ultimately, I liked The Killing Room a lot and consider it a bit of a hidden gem from 2009. The pacing is a bit slow in parts but the acting is rock solid and it's directed with great confidence. The ending is what will make or break the film for many viewers. It's less a twist than a reveal and while I liked it, I know all too well how hard it is to please some viewers. Personally, I'd like to see three more parts to The Killing Room (yes that's a hint of sorts).

The Killing Room hits DVD in America and Canada on Oct 13, 2009 but you can already pre-order it here.

The Killing Room is available in the UK a little earlier (August 17, 2009) and you can buy it here.

Could you survive The Killing Room? Try these questions:

Q. What day would you cancel?

a) Easter
b) 4 July
c) Christmas

Q. Who do you save from a sinking ship?

a) You
b) Them
c) No one

Best thanks.


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Steve Con....No, wait, I mean Anonymous (12 years ago) Reply

"the government eventually shut all MK-ULTRA stations down in the 70s"
Do you really believe this, or is it just what they told you to say?


Anonymous (12 years ago) Reply

NOt as good as Cube but damn close. I dug it a lot. That's saying a lot as I could care less for most of the actors, and that's usually a movie killer for me but it works here.


Anonymous (12 years ago) Reply

funny movie

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