There is a new genre of horror that cropped up in 2020 and that is the quarantine horror sub-genre. Movies like Host and Bad Ben: Pandemic took the crappy situation the entire world found itself in and made it into something terrifying and/or entertaining. Among the throngs of new viral horror movies is KILLER and the concept is actually pretty interesting. It’s just that, unfortunately, the execution couldn’t keep up.
KILLER was directed by A.D. Smith and follows 10 friends as they self-quarantine together during a pandemic. What begins as a good time full of hanging out and playing games turns into a nightmare as they all wake up in a circle, tied to chairs. As they begin to die one by one in the order of the way they died in a game they played, they realize one of them is the killer and time is running out.
I appreciate a good indie movie. Indie movies are like indie games in which they don’t follow the rules of high-budget films. Indie films rely more on creativity to get their point across, which is why the story and the characters are all the more important. That being said, this is the least likable group of people I have ever seen. There was not one of these people that I would want to spend more than 30 seconds with in a room before I’d camp in the backyard for the rest of quarantine. The quarantine and virus aspect is shoehorned into the film and not very well. The same goes for racial and political issues that reached a boiling point last summer. Don’t get me wrong. Social commentary 100% belongs in horror and we’ve seen it done successfully. But there’s a way to do it that feels like it’s an integral part of the film and not just a sticker that was slapped on top of the dialogue.
We don’t expect Oscar-worthy performances in an indie film and films like Velocipastor lean into the bad acting to poke fun at itself and it works. But when films take themselves too seriously and don’t have the acting chops to back it up, it can really take away from the movie, which is the case here. The characters are so unlikeable and pushed so hard to BE unlikeable that it makes it difficult to watch.
That being said, there were good things about the production. While the white light in the flashback scenarios needed some SERIOUS diffusing, the classic blue and red lighting looked good and added to the game/cyberpunk themes that were going for…but not all the time. KILLER centers around a game called K=Killer, but it’s more tabletop than a video game. This made the strange game lighting elements seem out of place.
There was one shining light in this film and that was Madison Alexander as Kelly. For 80 minutes, she was as bland as plain yogurt but, in the last 5-8 minutes of KILLER, her performance made a complete 180. All of a sudden, she had character and blew the rest of the film out of the water. If KILLER was a short film topping at 15 minutes instead of a 90-minute full feature, utilized Madson to her fullest extent, and put a diffuser over the white light, it would have been far more interesting.
A.D. Smith’s KILLER played as a part of this year’s Indie Memphis Film Festival.