October 13, 2009
Gus Krieger and Ann Peacock
Nick Cannon as Paul Brodie
Clea DuVall as Kerry Isalano
Timothy Hutton as Crawford Haines
Chloë Sevigny as Ms. Reilly
Peter Stormare as Dr. Phillips
Shea Whigham as Tony Mazzolla
The Killing Room begins with a long walk along what appears to be a rooftop by a young woman named Ms. Reilly (Chloe Sevigny) in heels and a conservative suit. She is on the way to an interview to work on a top secret psychological project, and she is being considered because a former colleague described her as “ruthless”.
After some cryptic warnings and a few psychology riddles, the psychologist Ms Reilly is shown a series of taped events for her to give her “observations” on. The events depict a group of people in a white room who responded to an advertisement to be subjects for a psychological experiment. The strangers answer a long questionnaire and sit around for a while before the attending psychologist Dr. Phillips enters to give the test subjects some instructions. Phillips is pretty jovial and puts all of the test subjects immediately at ease, until he quickly puts a gun to one their heads and pulls the trigger. He then quickly leaves the room.
What follows is a series of torturous tests that are inflicted upon the subjects, their panic growing with every minute. There will be more tests, they were told, and only one of the remaining three will pass without being “eliminated”.
The Killing Room is a phenomenal psychological thriller that crosses the line to pure horror within the first few minutes. The scenario regarding the tests, referenced to be part of the infamous Ultra testing rumored to involve LSD during the Vietnam era, is brutal and sometimes heart-stopping.
The performances in this film are suburb on all counts, and truly make this film memorable. Dr. Phillips (Peter Stormare) is both cold and maniacally passionate about the work, clearly believing that observing the reactions to the test subjects in the face of murder and imminent death is crucial to the success of his country. The test subjects are incredible as well; Timothy Hutton giving a strong performance as the level headed alpha-male, Nick Cannon as the submissive and scared one and Shea Whigham (also known as the escaped inmate from Splinter) as the patriot convinced that the Taliban is behind the whole thing.
The suspense in this film is absorbing as action after action has a probable bad result, yet the subjects go through with them out of a desperate desire to survive. Much of this is the result of the excellent directing of Jonathan Liebesman, also the director of BHM favorite Darkness Falls.
The true star of the show, though, is Chloë Sevigny as Ms. Reilly. After watching Sevigny in the HBO series “Big Love” I was familiar with this actress, but didn’t much like her. The fact is, I didn’t like her character… and that, I now realize, is a testament to the skill of this actress. Sevigny is just phenomenal with emotion and repressed actions showing in every expression on her face. The appeal of The Killing Room rest squarely on her shoulders, and she wears it well.
The Killing Room is an excellent film that will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. The suspense is painful, yet so compelling that hitting the pause button is not possible – your hand just won’t move.
Although this film hovers at times between thriller and horror, horror movie freaks are sure to find some enjoyment and count it among the favorites of the straight to DVD films of the year.