×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

SXSW Film Review: ‘68 Kill’

Love really, really hurts for the hapless protagonist of this Amerindie black comedy.

With:
Matthew Gray Gubler, AnnaLynne McCord, Alisha Boe, Sheila Vand, Sam Eidson, James Moses Black, Ajay Mehta, Michael Beasley, Dave Maldonado, Hallie Grace Bradley, Peter Jaymes, Eric Podnar, Lucy Faust.

Stepping just slightly outside the horror terrain he’s inhabited since an early run of Troma gigs (as actor, writer and producer), Trent Haaga’s second directorial feature “68 Kill” is much like his first, 2011’s “Chop” — as well as E.L. Katz’s 2013 “Cheap Thrills,” which he co-wrote — in that it’s a zesty black comedy whose nebbish hero gets subjected to a prolonged ordeal of painful misfortunes. This particular variation on that theme is based on Bryan Smith’s novel, yet the sadistic song remains much the same. Not everyone will enjoy this slide down a narrative garbage chute lined with thorns. But viewers and programmers with a taste for midnight-movie outrageousness will cotton to its mix of sleaze, quease and bad-taste absurdism.

DP Neeham B. Smith’s opening shot is of a fly stuck in honey — just as protagonist Chip (Mathew Gray Gubler) is hopelessly stuck on girlfriend Liza (AnnaLynne McCord), though it cannot be said that her primary quality is sweetness. In fact, beautiful though she is, her personality is downright punishing, literally so when delivering blows in the heat of passion. Nonetheless, Chip is smitten enough to put up with just about anything for her, including his smelly job with a septic-disposal company and her sexual services to their trailer-home landlord. He’s even reluctantly willing to go along when she insists they rob said landlord, whom she’s learned keeps $68,000 in cash at home in a safe. She also demands they take loaded weapons while claiming there will be no need for violence.

Naturally, the plan does not go as Chip expects — in fact, Liza takes far too much pleasure in doling out the bodily harm she’d promised him they’d avoid. In short order they’ve left two dead bodies behind. They also have an unanticipated captive (Alisha Boe as Violet) whose fate Chip likewise worries about, particularly when their first getaway stop is the home of Liza’s consummately creepy brother Swayne (Sam Eidson), who looks like a serial-killer for very good reason. The night is still young when Chip flees with Violet still in the car trunk and Liza, who does not take this “relationship breakup” at all well, in lethal pursuit.

“Criminal Minds” star Gubler, who was also amusingly harassed as the object of horror-comedy hauntings in 2014 indie “Suburban Gothic,” provides the right gormless appeal to keep “Kill” reasonably light and likable. That’s fortunate, since a lot of the content here pushes the envelope toward outright unpleasantness — particularly once poor Chip falls into the clutches of trailer-trash types who make even increasingly lunatic Liza seem reasonable by comparison.

Haaga and crew aren’t aiming for realism (let alone plausibility) in their raw-luck tall tale, but they straddle cartoonishness and cruelty evenly enough that what some will find hilarious may strike others as just gratuitously mean-spirited. You certainly need a tolerance for the kind of non-PC pulp noir cliches Smith was presumably sending up in print: Virtually every femme here is fatale —and, as well, a prostitute of one sort or another.

McCord (of the “90210” reboot) seizes upon her maniac-girlfriend role with considerable relish; supporting turns are likewise adept, if in need of a little nuance. The colorful, pacey package is nicely turned in all tech and design departments.

SXSW Film Review: ‘68 Kill’

Reviewed online, San Francisco, March 16, 2017. (In SXSW Film Festival — Midnighters.) Running time: 95 MIN.

Production: An Alliance Media Partners presentation of a Snowfort Pictures production. (International sales: CAA, Century City.) Producers: Travis Stevens, Bob Portal, David Lawson Jr. Executive producers: Inderpal Singh, Stephanie Trepanier.

Crew: Director: Trent Haaga. Screenplay: Haaga, based on the novel by Bryan Smith. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Needham B. Smith. Editor: Valerie Krulfeifer. Music: Frank Ilfman, James Griffiths.

With: Matthew Gray Gubler, AnnaLynne McCord, Alisha Boe, Sheila Vand, Sam Eidson, James Moses Black, Ajay Mehta, Michael Beasley, Dave Maldonado, Hallie Grace Bradley, Peter Jaymes, Eric Podnar, Lucy Faust.

More Film

  • The Beatles Eight Days a Week

    Imagine's Documentary Arm Sets First-Look Pact With Apple (EXCLUSIVE)

    Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries has set a first-look pact with Apple to develop non-fiction features and series. The deal comes as Imagine is investing heavily in the premium non-fiction arena. The company in June recruited RadicalMedia veteran Justin Wilkes to head Imagine Documentaries as president. More Reviews TV Review: 'Conversations With a [...]

  • Walt Disney HQ LA

    Disney Unveils Financial Data for DTC Unit, Sets April 11 for Investor Presentation

    Disney has rejiggered its business segments for earnings reporting to make room for the new unit housing its global streaming operations. Disney on Friday released restated earnings for fiscal 2018, 2017 and 2016 to give investors and financial analysts better visibility into its spending on the launch of the Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and other [...]

  • Glass Movie

    Box Office: 'Glass' Breaking for $47 Million Opening Weekend

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is heading for a solid opening of about $47 million at 3,841 North American locations during its first four days, early estimates showed Friday. The performance is slightly below Universal’s forecasts of $50 million for its supernatural thriller, which took in $3.7 million at 3,200 North American sites in Thursday night [...]

  • oscar nominee predictions 2019

    'Roma,' 'A Star Is Born' Poised to Lead Oscar Nominations

    Things got ugly this awards season, enough to give you pause about what might still lie ahead once Oscar nominations are announced next week. “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride,” etc. But as the phase one dust finally begins to settle, what does the landscape look like? On the heels of [...]

  • Oscars Predictions 2018 Illustration

    Academy Awards: Final Oscar Predictions in All Categories

    Nominations for the 91st Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 22. Below are In Contention’s final predictions in all 24 categories. Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” and Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” lead the way with 10 expected nominations apiece, while we forecast eight for Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite” and seven each for Damien [...]

  • Zach Barack Spider-Man

    Transgender Actor Zach Barack Joins Sony's 'Spider-Man: Far From Home'

    Newcomer and transgender actor Zach Barack appears in a ground-breaking supporting role in Sony/Marvel’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” sources confirm to Variety. Barack can be seen in the new trailer, which was released on Tuesday. More Reviews TV Review: 'Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes' Album Review: Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content