Long stretches of silence and static shots of dripping faucets and ticking clocks are occasionally interrupted by torture and bloody murders in “The Killing Jar,” a spectacularly boring chamber thriller from writer-director Mark H. Young. Running exactly 90 minutes (almost to the second) while feeling much, much longer, this New Films Intl. release boasts some interesting photography and game performances from B-movie darlings Michael Madsen and Danny Trejo, but it’s tough to see either element serving as much of a B.O. draw.
To be fair, Young doesn’t exactly make things easy on himself here — “The Killing Jar” is set entirely inside the dining room of a rundown rural truck-stop restaurant. This shows that the helmer respects the achievements of Hitchcock and Lumet, but not that he understands how to imbue what is essentially a one-set, one-act play with any tension or cinematic flair.
For the first half-hour of the film, a clutch of latenight diners lounge listlessly, while waitress Noreen (Amber Benson) and traveling salesman Dixon (Harold Perrineau) endeavor to establish the barest whiffs of a backstory. A radio announcer breaks the silence to report that a nearby farm family has been murdered, and minutes later, an ominously leather-jacketed drifter named Doe (Madsen) enters the scene.
After some needless delays, Doe takes the entire restaurant hostage and begins a slow process of interrogations and shootings that occupy the rest of the film, while his victims mostly sit in a corner, as though resigned to being systematically terrorized. Maddeningly repetitive exchanges of dialogue between predator and prey are intended to be terse and flinty, but are instead almost surreally insubstantial.
Young has clearly done his homework on forensic ballistics, as a dozen or so gunshot wounds are seen (and heard) in lovingly muculent detail, with a number even reprised in closeup collages later on, interspersed with random shots of inanimate objects. Technical contributions are largely sharp, yet put to poor use.