Director – Chris Moore, Screenplay – Kelly Palmer, Producers – Dan Abrams, Morris Bart, Chris Bender, Julie Dangel, Adam Rosenfelt & Amanda White, Photography – David Armstrong, Music – Michael Suby, Visual Effects – Comen VFX (Supervisor – Tim Carras), Special Effects – Disturbing Image Effects, Makeup Effects – Lee Radzion, Production Design – Ethan Tobman. Production Company – Element Films/Lift Productions/Cross River Pictures/Benderspink
Teddy Dunn (Brent), Agnes Bruckner (Jennifer), Patrick Flueger (Michael), Ryanne Duzich (Amber), Taryn Manning (Alex), Daniel Franzese (Freddy), Theo Rossi (Carlos), Don McManus (Dr Karl Truftin), Steffi Wickens (Nicole), Kevin Gage (Killer)
Walter discusses with his psychiatrist what caused him to be incarcerated for manslaughter. He tells how he was mountain climbing and had to cut the rope in order to save his own life but at the cost of sending his two friends to their deaths. He insists anybody would make the same choice in the circumstances. Elsewhere, Brent and a group of six other university friends go to his parents’ holiday home by the lake for a weekend of partying. As they settle in for the first night, they are woken as Nicole’s body is thrown through the window. A video message is left by Walter telling them they have until 6 am during which time they must kill each other until only one of the group remains alive to go free.
Kill Theory was a directorial debut for Chris Moore who has some surprisingly high-profile credits as a producer on films such as Good Will Hunting (1997), American Pie (1999), Reindeer Games (2000), Feast (2006) and sequels, The Adjustment Bureau (2011) and Manchester By the Sea (2016).
Kill Theory has been conceived by someone who was clearly desiring to create a film that competed with Saw (2004) and sequels. It could be considered Saw by way of Big Brother (2000– ) – where Jigsaw’s games involving people having to make horrifying moral choices to escape from a death-trap has been conceptually extended to a group of teens who have been imprisoned in a house with orders to kill each other until only one of them remains. This is actually a fairly good set-up for a film. You can see how it would work – an imprisonment thriller in which a group of people are pushed way past moral norms, where cracks start to appear, where self-interest and survival coldly trumps friendship and they are forced to make a choice between staying alive or killing their loved one.
Alas, Kill Theory never ever gets that interesting. Despite its potential, everything feels utterly generic. The group is your standard complement of teens in peril at an isolated locale; the killer anticipates their every move and creates traps of fiendish ingenuity and even greater foresight and complicity. More to the point, their responses never seem anything more than yelling “We’ve got to get out of here” or “do something” at each other. The wider issues of traversing moral boundaries that such choices would necessarily entail are left largely untapped. The most obvious threat is made into the easy target of the self-absorbed Brent who is shown as having no compunction about killing others. It is not until right at the end where any of the other characters get to make any tough choices – and that is less the tough choice of who to kill than it is of Patrick Flueger being confronted by his girlfriend and another girl who became fixated on him after he had a fling with her. What we end up with is a Saw copy that wants to be about tough moral choices but feels exactly like it is written by someone whose life experience had consisted of watching Big Brother and has based the characters more on the bitchy rivalries among a group of university friends than anything that resembles reactions that would occur in the real world.