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The Killing Room
cast: Nick Cannon, Chloë Sevigny, Timothy Hutton, Clea Duvall, and Peter Stormare

director: Jonathan Liebesman

89 minutes (15) 2008
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by James A. Stewart
When a film is called The Killing Room the viewer is being given a big fat hint as to what it may be about. Firstly, there will be a room. Secondly, there will be killing in it... Thirdly, there is only one [room]. And it is this semi-caustic assessment of the film's title that demonstrates how an otherwise potentially very good film is left floundering in the 'not too bad' bracket.

Four volunteers have answered the call to take part in an experiment. Their motivations for responding to the advert become clear as the film moves on. Unbeknown to them, it is those rascals the CIA who are conducting the test and specifically they are looking to stretch the psychological limits of their human guinea-pigs. Conducting the research is Ms Reilly (Chloë Sevigny) who has been brought in to do an on-the-job interview, in effect. She soon develops concerns and is worried about the ethics and intentions of Dr Phillips (Peter Stormare).

There is a nice mix of gender and ethnicity in her subjects, as befits such an experiment, one would think. They are promised the lure of $250 regardless of how they perform in the tests and set about being 'subjected to'. Of course, things are not as simple as filling a couple of forms and, very quickly, things take a turn for the sinister in a couple of early shocks in the plot. But, then, things get rather predictable until a semi-surprise ending which is slightly wasted by some pointless hints earlier in film.

The whole movie is shot within the confines of the facility in which the testing is taking place. It riffs on Saw big time, but in a less gruesome way, which isn't hard. The premise for The Killing Room plotline is that it is based on what are claimed to be true events, a project known as MK-ULTRA in which these types of experiments were conducted in postwar America. MK-ULTRA is well known in conspiracy theory circles, and is also a track on the Muse album released in September. I don't think it was to coincide with this DVD release though.

Where The Killing Room drops points is on the in parts lumbering plot and dialogue, and the desperation to reflect the government and military complicity in the tests. There is some really unnecessary use of sound effects and language. However, these points are redeemed by effective direction and atmosphere setting and more so, from the generally well played parts of the cast, with the in room characters coming across as especially convincing. Of course, the premise of The Killing Room has been done in some ways before. There are parallels with Cube and the aforementioned Saw, more so in the character depiction and development than anything else. As thrillers go, it stands well enough on its own and sates the appetite for a wee while anyway.

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