Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Melissa George, Stellan Skarsgard, Ashley Walters, Tom Hardy, Selma Blair
Directed by Tom Shankland
Distributed by Dimension Extreme
How strong can one human’s love be for another? Lover, child, sibling, parent … is there a limit to how much pain we will suffer to ensure a loved one lives?
This is the question rattling around the brain of the villain at the center of The Killing Gene a.k.a. w?z, which is not actually a word but the beginnings of an equation: W Delta Z. Essentially the theory is used to disprove altruism; that an animal only seems to sacrifice itself to save its fellow animals, when in reality it’s letting itself be killed to keep its own genes alive.
Heady stuff for a horror film, I know, but that’s really what sets The Killing Gene apart from other similar films. That and its very unique cast, all of whom turn in stellar performances. George plays a rookie detective named Helen who is immediately assigned to grizzled and bitter detective Eddie (Skarsgard). The film opens as they find the body of a pregnant girl on the docks of New York City, seemingly electrocuted with “w?z” carved into her.
Eddie immediately assumes the girl’s boyfriend, a known and much-hated scumbag, is responsible, but the discovery of his tortured and mutilated body brings that to a close. On him they find a bit more of the aforementioned equation, and pretty soon their brains are working overtime to figure out who’s killing these people and why.
Which brings me to another unique aspect of The Killing Gene; you find out pretty early on who’s responsible and, more importantly, why. Which means you’re not spending the entire movie trying to keep up with cops discovering more and more clues, but rather trying to decipher what each cop is hiding from the other and studying the psychosis of the killer. The Killing Gene is a very smart horror film, which is becoming more and more of a rarity these days.
It’s also further proof of my theory that actors are only as good as their directors; George, whose performances are usually flat at best, grips her role in The Killing Gene with both hands and takes her character very seriously. Blair puts in a surprisingly strong performance as well, which is significant for me because I’ve honestly never found her to be anything more than a pretty face in everything I’ve seen her in. She’s given a lot to work with in The Killing Gene, though, and you can tell she relished the opportunity.
I would be remiss not to mention the gore, which is quite plentiful. Some have compared it to Saw and Hostel since our killer does use a homemade device to dispatch their prey, but the gulf between those movies and The Killing Gene is quite large, mainly because the movie isn’t about the torture and killing so when it happens, it’s that much more effective. Paul Hyett, the man responsible for the gore in Doomsday, The Sick House, The Descent and more, is who we have to thank for it all looking so goddamn painful.
The most significant feature is a cool 18-ish minute interview with the director, producer, and writer discussing their motivations for the film and how it all came together. It’s shot and edited tight and just long enough to not overstay its welcome.
A gore effects featurette is included, though sadly most of it focuses on a scene that was cut last minute. You can see said scene, however, as an alternate opening, one of a small chunk of deleted scenes with optional commentary.
All in all, this is a nicely robust DVD for a damn fine little horror/thriller, depending on how loose your definition of either genre is. Truly good stuff!
4 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5
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