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As slasher movies go, Chris Moore’s “Kill Theory” doesn’t exactly break from the mold. From all outward appearances, it’s pretty run-of-the-mill, with the usual crop of pretty 20-somethings trapped in an isolated location (the ever popular “dad’s cabin in the woods”) being stalked by a madman who has it all figured out. As is usually the case, the psycho is more interesting than his victims, and his motive for killing them actually quite original. Curiously, the film is saddled not only with the usual horror conventions, but at times believes it’s more than your average neighborhood slasher. The latter results in overly indulgent dialogue and character pathos that, frankly, don’t belong in a movie where the killer leaves man-sized traps on lawns.
“Kill Theory” is directed by Chris Moore, a former producer most famous for his stint on Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s “Project Greenlight” TV show. Moore has decided to put his money where his mouth is, and steps behind the camera to finally direct his first horror movie. The premise of the film finds an unnamed killer (Kevin Gage) being released from a mental institution, where he has been held for a number of years after a trio of manslaughter charges. You see, years ago our killer was climbing some mountains with friends when he decided that the only way to save himself was to sacrifice them. In decent society, that’s called manslaughter, but to our psycho, it’s a simple and natural instinct to survive, and all human share it. He aims to prove his point (his kill theory, if you will) on a bunch of college friends that have gathered at a cabin in the woods one final time before graduation.
You probably won’t be too surprised to learn that the group of friends include the usual archetypes: the rich, selfish brat (Teddy Dunn) whose dad owns the cabin, and his slutty girlfriend (Ryanne Duzich); the fat, girlfriendless one (Daniel Franzese) of the group; and two other couples: the token ethnic couple (Steffi Wickens and Theo Rossi) and the seemingly perfect couple (Patrick Flueger and Agnes Bruckner). And oh yeah, Taryn Manning plays the rich brat’s trailer trash step-sister. The killer quickly introduces himself to the group, killing one half of the ethnic duo (cause obviously being a minority in a slasher film is just asking to go first), but not before offering her the chance to cap her boyfriend as he slept. She says no, and ends up dead for her defiance. The killer then introduces his game to the rest of the group: they have three hours to kill each other, and he will only allow one of them to survive, but only if he/she is the only one still alive when time expires. Needless to say, conflicts ensue.
That’s actually a pretty good idea for a slasher movie, and for a while you actually think “Kill Theory” might rise above the usual crop of moderately budgeted slasher films that’s come before it. That isn’t the case, though the film certainly has moments where it doesn’t look, sound, or feel like its peers, but unfortunately that also means the movie doesn’t quite deliver on all the promises of the genre. Despite offering up a relatively short running time, there are long stretches in the film where nothing happens except characters sitting around debating the merits of this and that. There is about 30 minutes of fighting for possession of the lone handgun before anyone even fires off a shot. Of course, once the friends start knocking each other off, things pick up noticeably.
Cast-wise, “Kill Theory” probably has a better group of actors than your average slasher film, and the script by Kelly Palmer seems tailored to giving each of the actors their own little “acting moments”. In some ways, “Kill Theory” probably does itself a disservice by thinking it’s more of a character-based slasher movie than one about, well, the killings. Sure, I don’t mind that these people actually can act, but I sure would have rather seen people get cleverly killed instead of, you know, endlessly debating their questionable friendships. The film saves itself by getting surprisingly very bloody towards the end, when the guns are exchanged for knives, and that always equals good times in a horror movie.
Overall, “Kill Theory” is a solid slasher movie. It fields a mostly unknown but better than average cast, and the film’s final 20 minutes, when all pretenses of loyalty fall by the wayside in service of survival is where the movie earns its stripes. Until then, there is probably too much chatter and endless character revelations, two things that go great in a small indie drama about friends vacationing in the Italian countryside, but not so much in a movie about a killer with a high-powered rifle stalking a group of pretty 20-somethings in a cabin in the woods. To give it credit, “Kill Theory” kept me interested for a lot of its running time. I just wish it didn’t talk so much and used more of its short 80-odd minutes for more killing instead of yapping.
Chris Moore (director) / Kelly C. Palmer (screenplay)
CAST: Don McManus … Dr. Karl Truftin
Ryanne Duzich … Amber
Teddy Dunn … Brent
Daniel Franzese … Freddy
Agnes Bruckner … Jennifer
Patrick Flueger … Michael
Steffi Wickens … Nicole
Theo Rossi … Carlos
Taryn Manning … Alex
Kevin Gage … Killer