It begins with a vanload of college kids driving down a lone road in the middle of the woods. They all begin that way, don’t they? But wait, it gets even better. They arrive at a summer lake house, which just happens to be located at least fifty miles from the nearest police or fire station, and they immediately find all the booze. After a night of drinking and partying and more drinking, most of them go off and have sex. The only exception is the one guy whose lack of experience in the girlfriend department is in direct proportion to his extra weight. He’s left to play video games all by himself, the poor guy. What’s worse, he has to watch as two of his friends get hot and heavy directly outside his window.
Anyway, at around three in the morning, an unseen madman descends on the house and forces the kids to participate in a social experiment. The hypothesis: One of them is capable of killing everyone else in order to survive. If more than one is left alive by 6:00 am, the madman makes it clear that everyone will die.
The college kids aren’t allowed to leave the house, and anyone that tries will either be killed on the spot or fall victim to a booby trap. They all must take part in this. As the three hours pass, paranoia, distrust, and resentment grow amongst the college kids. Old wounds open. Feelings, both good and bad (mostly bad), arise. Some think they have made alliances, but in reality, they all have to fend for themselves. Why are they being put through this? What lesson is this madman trying to teach? Why is he teaching it?
I thought the idea of subjecting people to dangerous mind games had been exhausted with the Saw films, but I guess I was wrong. In all likelihood, Kill Theory will appease many horror audiences, seeing as it gives them everything they want. Young victims. Topless girls. Bad dialogue. A lot of swearing. A plot that pretends to make a point but is really just a vehicle for gory death scenes. If this is your cup of tea, fine, but I seriously doubt there’s anything in this movie you can’t get from other slashers. I take that back; this movie does not supply the madman with a mask. For the most part, he remains off screen and lets the college kids do most of the dirty work.
Anyone can make a case for how movies like this are ugly, cruel, and mindless, but the real problem here is that Kill Theory just isn’t trying very hard. There isn’t much originality in its story, its characters, or its structure, inspired by every slasher film made between 1980 and now, many of which were rehashes from the word go. There’s not a single likeable or interesting person amongst the eight college kids – not even Freddy, the overweight one (Daniel Franzese), introduced as the pathetic nice guy but in due time devolves into the wigged out lunatic that cries a lot. From the filmmaker’s point of view, he’s just a figure of fun, made to be laughed at more than sympathized with. I can’t say I appreciate that. Even with the occasional corny joke, this really isn’t a funny film.
What saves Kill Theory from utter pointlessness is its development of the killer, who isn’t really seen but is sometimes heard. He’s played by Kevin Gage as a cross between Jigsaw, Ghost Face, and the late Don LaFontaine, otherwise known as the guy who used to narrate all the movie trailers. Just wait until you hear him deliver the line, “Deep down, we’re all killers.” I leave it to you to discover what drives his character. I will say that it was revealed rather cleverly, in a way that proves horror movie plot twists still have their place.
But on the whole, this is a cliché, tiresome film, made worse by a story we can’t actively engage in. How can we when the whole thing is so preposterous? More to the point, how can we when there isn’t a character we can actually invest in? Franzese, Teddy Dunn, Ryanne Duzich, Patrick Fleuger, Steffi Wickens, Taryn Manning, Theo Rossi, and Agnes Bruckner show spirit in trying to make something of the screenplay, but it doesn’t count for much since director Chris Moore and writer Kelly C. Palmer had to make something of the roles first. They perform as best they can, which is admirable but also futile; their characters are required to do no more or less than die on cue, and that hardly requires any range.
I’ve admitted numerous times that I’ve grown tired of the slasher genre, so I guess my not liking Kill Theory was inevitable. If you’re not like me, however, then chances are you will enjoy it. As I said, it gives you everything you could possibly want. This definitely includes the horrifying discovery that not only are cell phones useless in the woods, but also that the phone line in the house has been severed. Funny – I would have thought the filmmakers would go one step further and have the whole thing take place in the middle of a rainstorm. If you’re going to rely on clichés, you might as well go all the way.