We are living in a time where we are all being challenged to question our ingrained or learned prejudices. As a white person, our society and judicial system have been tools I can take advantage of. It is a crutch white people have grown up with that, for the most part, we do not have to think about every day. In many cases, this privilege is not maliciously abused due to the societal blinders that keep us thinking we live in a world where justice will always be given to those who deserve it. But this is delusional. In reality, we live in a world where the judicial system is riddled with loopholes and hypocrisies that benefit those who hold society’s values closest, more specifically, the educated-cis-straight- white man. Our white-run society, never needing to look at the world from the perspective of others, sees minority groups as uncontrollable and more dangerous than the considered average-white-Joe on the street. In a lineup of a medley of criminals charged with the same crime, our biases will size up an average educated white man differently than anyone else and punish accordingly.
As a black man previously persecuted by this broken system, director A.R. Hilton investigates this injustice in his first feature film, ANONYMOUS KILLERS. Four killers and a white ethics professor, Curtis Tiddleman (Kevin Glikman) are kidnapped by a knock-off Jigsaw named Emaramus (Nathanyael Gray). The captives awake to find themselves in electric chairs, restrained by barbed wire. Justice is the name of the game and once everyone relates their secrets to the group, Emaramus is going to make each captive judge who should live and who should die.
As each killer recounts their tale, it becomes clear that Emaramus represents our society- vehemently accusing each killer through a black and white lens; lacking empathy while disregarding the disparate and sinuous paths that led them to this judgment day, and ultimately being righteous and condescending despite his hypocrisies. One captive, not wanting to place judgment, says: “One’s hardships are measured by one’s own experiences”, but Emaramus- our society- does not care. It is the reactions to these hardships that are the only things that matter. Meanwhile, our professor remains silent, adamant that he does not belong there. He does not have the hardships and experiences that the others have. He is just an everyday man trying to mold the minds of the younger generations. Therefore, will anyone vote for him to be killed? Who will he vote for? Will society influence these votes? How much does one’s own hardships and experiences ultimately affect the judgment of individuals charged with the same crime?
The format of ANONYMOUS KILLERS is basically the Saw franchise having an intervention. In the beginning, I was captivated by the Tarantinoesque opening credits for each character but not particularly enthralled by some of the acting. However, once each backstory was unraveled, I was completely drawn in by these characters and the bigger picture that A.R. Hilton was trying (and succeeded) to convey. The perspectives were clearly defined, paving the way for the audience to cast their own judgments on each captive based on their own hardships. The ending, in retrospect, was consistent and thus arguably obvious, but I was watching with my societal blinders up and so got to appreciate the fate of each character more than I would expect.
If there was ever a time for ANONYMOUS KILLERS to be made, it is now. Society’s pitfalls might seem clear on the outside but it is muddled in a web of sanctimonious delusions on the inside, ultimately making it very difficult to untangle into an equal and just one. Fortunately, A.R. Hilton has provided an incisive way to explore this dilemma, and for that alone, ANONYMOUS KILLERS deserves a watch.
This new horror-thriller premieres today, with a limited “Theater At Home” experience on iTunes/AppleTV, Vimeo on demand, and Amazon Prime Video, with a wider streaming release to other platforms later in the month.