Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Paul (Nick Cannon), Kerry (Clea DuValle), Crawford (Timothy Hutton) and Tony (Shea Whigham) are four volunteers in some unknown experiment with the promise at the end of this experiment, as told to them by the head of this experiment, Dr. Phillips (Peter Stromare), is 200 bucks. 200 bucks. Wow. That’s over thirty dollars an hour as Kerry, who must be some kind of math wizard, deftly points out. Then Dr. Phillips pulls out a gun, shoots somebody in the head at point blank range, scurries out of the room and locks the doors. Somebody isn’t getting their 200 dollars. And this is when the latest ‘folks locked in a room movie’ The Killing Room begins to take its shape.

Paul appears to be homeless and is the most nervous of everyone in our crew. Kerry is mousey, Tony is as hostile as a fire cracker while Crawford is cool as ice trying to find a way out of this most unfortunate situation. As Dr. Phillips explains to us, via his young protégé Dr. Reilly (Chloe Sevigny), this is a government sponsored test of sorts with what this test is searching out being saved as a big reveal in the final frames. Dr. Reilly, it would seem, is a recent graduate and wishes to take her psychological training to the next level by studying under the renowned Dr. Phillips. But once she sees what Dr. Phillips is doing to these people she begins to have her doubts about the good doctor and his program. Observing Dr. Reilly observing his program, Doctor Phillips is having his own doubts about Dr. Reilly and her commitment to her career.

While these two are upstairs, behind the one-way glass the experiment is steady going on below them. Obviously the survivors are completely tripping out after watching one them catch a bullet to the dome, and note that this person is still lying there, dead, in pool of blood. Things get more complicated for the survivors when a gun comes tumbling through one of the door slots and then a riddle comes through with our surviving crew stuck trying to figure out the answer to this riddle in the allotted time frame. Regardless, somebody isn’t surviving this next round, and so it goes until only one of our quartet is left and the test is completed.

What’s this test all about? Who will survive and why? Maybe Dr. Reilly is the one being tested… who knows? All of these questions, for the most part, will be answered in ‘The Killing Room’.

Perhaps because I’ve seen so many of these locked in a empty room type movies lately with movies such as ‘Breathing Room’, ‘The Chaos Experiment’, ‘My Little Eye’, ‘House of 9’ and more that aren’t coming to mind right now, I didn’t find anything particularly moving about ‘The Killing Room’ that sets itself apart from those other locked in a room movies. Or maybe I’m just all ‘locked in room’ movied out or something. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman ‘The Killing Room’ had a very fine cast of good actors who did not disappoint, particularly Timothy Hutton as the cool hand of the group with the whirring mind always trying to find a way out of this situation, but maybe because of the stark setting or because the characters were so starkly detailed themselves, it all felt so detached.

Since we didn’t know much about the characters, and it would be expected that as their situation wore on we wouldn’t learn any more about the characters than what we already know, taking into consideration that one their members is dead on the floor with a bullet in the head, a situation which doesn’t necessarily segue itself to a meet and greet… but this made it difficult for me to invest emotionally in any of the characters and get immersed into the growing mystery of the story. Truth be told the relationship be Stromare’s Dr. Phillips and his ingénue Dr. Reilly that was taking place behind the one way mirror was oddly more interesting than the mayhem and carnage that was taking place on the killing room floor below.

But what will keep you watching this movie, love it or hate it, is finding out what the object of this test is. It is the ‘big reveal’ that can rescue a movie such as this one if its done in a way that opens up waves of understanding, making everything you’ve seen before hand clear and revelatory. The conclusion here doesn’t quite get that done. It’s a valid enough ending but it seems like the creators of this test went through an awful lot trouble for not an awful lot of gain, and it does raise the question why the one that ended up passing the test was actually chosen because the reason given by our good Doctor didn’t make a heckuva lot of sense to me.

‘The Killing Room’ was far from a terrible movie as it is saved by Liebesman’s crisp shooting style and some fine acting, but it was a slow, detached film with a very muddy conclusion.

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