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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Killing Room


Starring: Chloë Sevigny, Nick Cannon, Timothy Hutton and Clea DuVall
Momentum Pictures
RRP: £12.99
Certificate: 15
Available 17 August 2009

Four individuals from different walks of life are brought together as paid volunteers to a psychology survey. Ushered into a curious white-walled room, they are sat at a table and asked to complete questionnaires as an insight into their way of thinking. When the mysterious Dr Phillips enters he begins to brief the four on the next process of the feasibility study, only to shoot dead one of the volunteers and exit the room. Suddenly the remaining three find themselves incarcerated in the secure room, and a primal instinct of survival kicks in. While unknown captors toy with their minds, the prisoners are given a question to which each will have to formulate an answer. One of the three will be terminated dependant on the reply. So as the clock counts down the available time left, the subjects need to decide whether to stick together and risk losing all, or to commit the ultimate selfish act for self-preservation.

In this film the viewer watches the watcher, so to speak, as Dr Phillips offers Emily Riley, a ruthlessly cold and ambitious military body language and clinical psychology expert, a significant promotion under the auspices of a top secret USA government body. To decide if she is the right person to eventually take over the reigns from him, Dr Phillips obliges her to observe and listen to the entire proceedings, making comments as to the manner in which their individual minds are working. She is increasingly horrified by the display, but will her humanity emerge enough to aid the victims, or will she succumb to greed and callousness in the name of a greater good?

A significant number of movies these days are said to be based on actual events. Most of these are apocryphal at best. One of the many conspiracy theories to have emerged from America surrounds the classified MK-Ultra project, a ruthless clinical psychology program created to discover individuals who are prepared to do whatever it takes for their country. It is said that the Rockefeller Commission ordered it to be "taken down" in 1975, but a subsequent investigation could find no evidence that it ever existed.

There's no doubt that The Killing Room is jumping on the popularity bandwagon of films such as Saw and Hostel, although this visibly cheaper psychological version of the so-called "torture porn" horror genre comes across as rather dry. There's no time to get used to the characters before events take a turn for the worse, so there's no way of knowing how differently they're reacting under extreme pressure. Cube did the throwing of strangers into a room together and leaving them to fend for themselves so much better. Furthermore, in Cube it was suspected the individuals were selected because of their separate professions, whereas here they could be anyone. This sort of thing might work with Spooks, where you have a fantastic scriptwriter and believable characters, but this example will make its way to the bargain bucket virtually overnight.


Ty Power

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