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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Killer Movie (Blu-ray)
Killer Movie (Blu-ray)
Phase 4 // R // October 13, 2009 // Region A
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted November 5, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
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The sleepy little hamlet of White Plains, North Dakota may barely rank as a speck on your TomTom -- hell, you'll need a sherpa to help you trek out to the nearest Starbucks eightysomething miles away -- but their plucky high school hockey team is carving their way to the championship anyway. It's the sort of heartstring-yanking story that Middle America gushes over, so one of the networks is naturally shuttling over a reality TV crew to cash indocument it all. Turns out, though...? White Plains is known for one other thing: um, a really savage, grisly murder, and the sociopathic nutjob that's spent the past decade in the klink over it is now back on the streets again. The show's über-bitchy producer (Cyia Batten) is shrugging off the cowpoke hockey team to focus on a small town reeling from having someone convicted of murder skulking around 'em. Hey, if it bleeds, it leads, right? 'Course, production would go a lot more smoothly if the crew weren't getting hacked into bloody, fun-size chunks themselves.

The slasher stuff in Killer Movie is all pretty paint-by-numbers: a completely silent masked killer picking everyone off one-by-one, another mangled corpse is tossed onto the body count every ten-to-fifteen minutes, there's a gasp-shocking reveal once the butcher's mask is yanked off...you know how this song goes by now. The movie squirts a little bit of blood around on the screen, sure, there's even some dismemberment, and...hey! Head on a pike. Killer Movie isn't some demented splatterfest, though, and whenever a kill scene rolls around, the flick kinda just seems as if it's trying to get it out of the way...a workmanlike clocking-in, as if that's just another checkbox it's trying to mark off. The stalk-and-slash is really routine, but Killer Movie makes up for it by...well, having everything else be pretty great.

Killer Movie is just a ridiculous amount of fun. It helps that this reality TV riff is written and directed by Jeff Fisher, a guy with eight years of shows like The Simple Life and The Real World/Road Rules Challenge under his belt. This is Fisher's first time fielding something that's...y'know, scripted and feature-length, but there's a confidence that still really comes through. He doesn't hide behind hypercaffeinated quick cutting or overly gimmicky camerawork, and Fisher clearly knows how to coax the best out of his actors. The reality TV framework helps the storytelling flow along extremely smoothly -- why settle for clunky exposition when you can chuck out another confessional? -- and it sports a pretty terrific sense of humor. The comedy's kind of understated: low-key and breezy, not flailing its arms around, screaming "this is the wacky, zany part!!!" the way a lot of these movies do. It's a more relaxed, more natural flavor of funny, and it helps that it's all being belted out by a pretty great cast.

Killer Movie is
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teeming with "oh, look, it's...!" actors: Lost's Nestor Carbonell as a seasoned Hollywood agent who knows how to yank his clients' strings to nudge 'em in the right direction, Gossip Girl's Leighton Meester, Al Santos from Grosse Pointe, Adriana DeMeo off an episode of Veronica Mars that for some reason is still stuck in my head, One Tree Hill's Torrey DeVitto, J.C. Chasez from N'Sync (!!!), and Jason London from Dazed and Confused as a prickly local working sound for the show. 'Course, the most recognizable face is The Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco, and she stars as a Paris Hilton/Lindsay Lohan type trying to claw her way out of the tabloids by trying the whole method acting thing as a celebrity P.A. Yeah, there's a lot of backstory there. Anyway, the real star of the movie, even though he doesn't actually score billing on the cover, is Paul Wesley, and he plays a director still reeling from cancellation and ::sniffles!:: heartbreak. He's intrigued by the smalltown-hockey-underdog angle, even, but...yeah, a masked serial killer isn't so much the break from the headaches of L.A. he'd held out hope for. Wesley's perfect in the lead, and the movie never requires him to make stupid calls just to keep the story chugging along. I'm not going to say that Killer Movie is a lush character piece or anything, but quite a few of its characters really do have an enormous amount of personality, and it helps that the movie has a bunch of experienced, instantly likeable actors on-hand to bring 'em all to life. Even roles that don't amount to much more than cameos are still infused with enough personality to set them apart from the rest of the slasher set, although I have enough of a crush on Leighton Meester to grouse about her not really being given much to do.

Killer Movie is really being mismarketed as a horror flick since it's about as terrifying as a Halloween episode of Boy Meets World, but don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that stalking and slashing that was bleaker and more unnervingly tense would've fit the bill; that would've been jarringly out of step with the tone that the rest of Killer Movie lobs out. I do think a parade of deliriously over-the-top kills -- or at least something more creative than standard issue gut-stabbing, strangulation, or a slit throat -- would've made for something even more fun. It comes close a couple of times, like having a fist-fight where a guy only has, uh, one fist, but most of the kills play like they're just trying to get an obligation out of the way. With a lot of slashers, I suffer through the stuff in between to get to the blood-drenched center of that Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop. This time around, I really dug all the character-centric stuff and thought the horror angle wound up being kind of a distraction. It goes full-bore with all the clichés, and not in some smirkingly post-modern sense either: the ookie "evil has come to your little town!" local, cell phone signals that come and go, and even sequel-bait. (There's also some half-nekkid girl-on-girl, so...yeah, there's that.) That's okay, though, since I dug just about everything else in Killer Movie. It's a pretty great spoof on reality TV, I dig its sense of humor, and I really, really like the cast. Kind of mixed but still Recommended.


Video
Y'know, Killer Movie may be a budget release, but it sure doesn't look like it. The 1.78:1 image is generally sharp and nicely detailed, and all sorts of intricate patterns and textures are rendered here without any hiccups at all. A few stretches are on the soft side, sure, and snippets like the slasher's shoulder-cam were shot on standard-def video and obviously don't stack up to the rest of the movie, but most of it looks great in HD. The tight, gritty texture of its film grain is kept intact, and the AVC encode never buckles under the weight of it all. The image is reinforced by punchy black levels, beefing up that reasonably strong sense of depth and dimensionality too. It's also nice to see how warm and natural the palette can be, shrugging off the stark, desaturated cliché that's been lurching around for a few years now. Just 'cause this is a lower budget movie from a small shop doesn't mean we've gotta grade on a curve...this is a really great looking Blu-ray disc.


Audio
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The flipside of the case lists Dolby Digital 5.1 audio along with a stereo downmix, but turns out...? That's just a misprint. Yup, Killer Movie is actually lugging around a six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio track, and it's a pretty good one too. The sound design's keen on heaping on the atmosphere: clinking forks and plates, hockey pucks zipping around, dripping water, squeaking tennies...that sort of thing. The surrounds heighten the action a bit -- the first too-cute red shirt being flung off her ATV by a barbwire clothesline, a whirring tablesaw, and spatters of blood, f'r instance -- but it's bigger on ambiance than aggressive directionality or whatever. Some of the dialogue sounds a little rough around the edges, but it all generally comes through cleanly and clearly enough. The chunks of score that punctuate the stalk-'n-slash are pretty mediocre...kinda bland and Casio-ish...although the licensed music that's scattered all over the flick is inhumanly infectious. Big, big thumbs up to the music supervisor here. Not only are the songs themselves great, but they come through really well on this Blu-ray disc too, backed up by a healthy low-end and snarling from the surround channels while they're at it. This is a really solid effort and definitely above-average for a low-budget indie.

Oh, and there aren't any subtitles or alternate soundtracks this time around. Sorry.


Extras
  • Behind the Scenes of Killer Movie (13 min.; SD): This making-of featurette hops back and forth between a barrage of quippy interviews with a gaggle of actors and quick peeks at how Killer Movie came together: notes about the tight production schedule, writer/director Jeff Fisher chatting about his background in reality TV, and short snippets of behind-the-scenes footage. If you're holding out for something piercingly insightful or whatever, the smart money says you'll walk away disappointed, but I had fun with it. I actually wish some of these same guys could've piled in front of the mic and hammered out an audio commentary, but you can't win 'em all.

  • Trailer (2 min.; SD): The only other extra is a standard-def theatrical trailer. A few other trailers play before the movie too, for anyone keeping track at home.

The Final Word
As a reality riff, Killer Movie is a ridiculous amount of fun, but as a horror flick...? Not so much. The stalk-and-slash kinda comes across as an afterthought, and it just seems to get in the way more than anything else. Don't get me wrong, though: I dug the movie anyway, and with this Blu-ray disc making the rounds online for ten bucks, the price is definitely right. I'm kind of waffling between a "Rent It!" and a "Recommended!", but...oh, why not? I'll be nice and round up. Recommended.


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