Description (from the DVD sleeve):
Six strangers awake to find themselves the new tenants of a mysterious old house. Terrorized by insane Tiki-men in masks and taunted by their deranged captors, it soon becomes clear that only one singular action will save them: Kill.
Trailer, Audio Commentary, Tromatic Extras
Every time I hear the opening notes from the Troma Team Video intro, it makes my mind start to race. I know that Troma has created and released some of the most original, fiercely independent cinema to come out of the US for the last near-40 or so years now. Troma has also released some of the crappiest of the crappy independent films as well. You just never know with Troma; you might be about to watch a brilliantly over-the-top satire (POULTRYGEIST), you might be about to watch something really dark and horrific (COMBAT SHOCK), it might be something extremely funny (CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL), or it might just be a bowlful of fake turd (TALES FROM THE CRAPPER). You just never know with Troma. KILL, thankfully, is no TALES FROM THE CRAPPER; however, it does not quite make it to the other end of the Troma spectrum either.
KILL is the story of six people, all dressed in white from head to toe, that wake up in rooms in a house with no idea how they got there or what they are doing there. Quickly it becomes apparent that there is something sinister afoot, as an injured, similarly dressed (except his white clothes are splattered red) person shows up. Tensions rise, and eventually it becomes known why they are there: to kill. It’s a game, and the only way to win (and therefore get back to your significant other) is to be the last one alive. As time ticks on, things get worse, and worse, and worse.
Right away, I got the feeling that KILL was SAW meets CUBE. There are no traps in this Canadian shocker, just people pitted against each other in the hopes that they’ll start killing each other. I liked the idea. It was a nice premise: familiar enough to not turn off those people that don’t like something too out-of-the-box, but different enough to not be a blatant rip-off of the plot of another film. Plus, this was a great set-up for a low-budget film. One location (the house), just a few characters, no real expensive effects to speak of; KILL was a great opportunity to be the low-budget suspense done right. Unfortunately, I don’t think the film really lived up to its promise.
For the first half or so of KILL, I was really hopeful that this film was going to be an exercise in suspense. You don’t know why they are there, you don’t know why they were selected, you don’t know who put them there, and you just don’t know if they are going to stick together or give in to the wishes of the people putting the game on. There was good distrust building; anyone could be “in on it,” you don’t really know if everyone is who they say they are (again, much like CUBE or SAW). Then by the second half of the film, things got silly, and they got gory, and the notion of building of suspense when right out the boarded-up window.
KILL could have been a really creepy film. There are moments that really are very unsettling, and make your skin crawl (like the scene in which Justin has to un-tape his face). The problem with KILL is that those creepy scenes are undone by an inherent silliness that goes throughout the film. First off, the place is decorated for a luau, and when you finally see the bad guys, they’re dressed in grass skirts and tiki masks. That’s not scary, that’s weird. Secondly, there’s just little bits of weirdness throughout that, again, ruin the possibility for KILL to really get under your skin; e.g. the tiki building a house of cards while others are assaulting one of the protagonists, or the arrival of a knight in full armor for no particular reason. There were so many moments that just made me go “what the fuck???” that it really deflated any chances for KILL to make any sort of emotional or psychological impact.
The film also has some serious issues with the plot and the characters. I don’t know about you, but if I woke up in some crazy house with a bunch of people I was supposed to fight to the death, I don’t think I would give two shits about respecting the homeowner. Not once, but at least twice, characters in the film show that they are worried about the house; first, they are worried about not messing up the decorations because someone obviously put a lot of time into them, and then: “Easy, that’s someone’s door.” If I was in this house, I would kick the ever-loving crap out of that door, and if I messed it up breaking it down, I’d take an extra second or two just to make sure it was completely unusable. Screw that jerk – you lock me in a house with people to kill, and I will have no respect for your beautiful home. There were other bits of weirdness that really de-railed the plot: like the key that doesn’t work at all throughout the film but miraculously works at the end, or the odd decisions the characters make (I would so be trying to lock or block a door to keep myself safe, and I don’t think I’d be worried about showering off blood when everyone’s out to kill each other).
As far as the production of the film goes, it had its ups and downs. There were some nicely composed shots, and while not a RED or anything, the image quality was decent. However, the images were quickly wearing on the eye since the entire film (with the exception of the surveillance footage) was run through some sort of grainy filter to achieve (I assume) a “grindhouse” feel, but really it just made it feel cheap. Way too much of the film was shot on red backgrounds, which do not work well with digital footage, and often became annoying. The sound quality varied from ok to not-too-good; it was never bad enough to not know what was going on, but some extra work would have done the dialogue and foley well. The lighting varied as well; some scenes were nicely dim, some had great shadows and play on light and darkness; others were completely over-lit, while others plainly showed the filmmakers shadows.
Overall, KILL was a movie that could have been so much better than what it was. It could have been really creepy, really suspenseful, and really surprising. Instead, it degenerated from an exercise in suspense into an exercise in gore effects. There was a lot that could have been done to make KILL be in the top tier of Troma releases, but there was too much done that firmly relegated it to the middle of the road. I can see plenty of potential in these filmmakers and this film, but I don’t think KILL really fulfills that promise. Not bad, but it could have been so much better.
Overall 6 / 10
KILL on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0772179/
KILL for sale: http://www.troma.com/films/kill/