What is love worth? How much pain would you endure before you would murder someone you loved to end it? In The Killing Gene our serial killer seeks these answers, reducing it all down to an algebraic equation. The film is actually the American DVD release titles for the British film WAZ or W Δ Z depending on the source. This title refers to the killers equation which translates to roughly W Δ Z = COV. It’s a rather odd indy looking piece, filmed in
Jean Lerner was once brutally attacked by a local gang. She was beaten and raped with a broken bottle. Finally she was tortured until she was forced to beg the gang to kill her mother. The officers who handled the case bungled the evidence, possibly intentionally, and she never got her justice. Now she’s intrigued by how she was able to sacrifice her mother’s life to end her own suffering. Using an equation she discovered, she seeks revenge on those responsible for her own condition. She forces them each to make the same choice, looking for someone who will willingly suffer and die to protect a loved one. The detective on her trail has personal reasons of his own for not wanting the case to get much attention.
On the surface the film appears to be a member of that relatively new sub genre of horror films often called torture porn or extreme slasher. You know the kind I’m talking about. Spawned by the success of such pioneers in that field like the Saw and Hostel series, it has become all the rage…and I do mean rage. I must give some credit to this film for not merely using torture as a means all to itself. There really is only one brutal scene, and it occupies the position of being the film’s disturbing climax. And so while I credit the filmmakers for not spending so much time lingering on bloody f/x, at least until the end, I’m sorry to report that all that occurs before is simply bad cinema. There’s a whole lot of brooding and speeches that just go on and on forever without ever really saying anything at all. I also notice that we sure get a lot of going in and out of cars and buildings. What’s up with that? In the end the film suffers most from a deliberate and painfully slow pace. Most of the actors do a horrific job of trying to hide their accents. Most of them are British with Melissa George being Australian. The result is that most of the dialog sounds ridiculously mumbled, as if the characters are all walking around chewing wads of tobacco. Whether by design or sheer incompetence, the cinematography on this film is abysmally bad. Cuts and edits are extremely awkward. There’s also a tendency to linger on inaction. If this was indeed an artistic choice, it was a very bad one.
The two female leads are the only competent members of the cast. Unfortunately both are used horribly, and their efforts end up being wasted. Melissa George is reduced to following the lead Stellan Skarsgard around like a little puppy dog looking for whatever handouts she can get. Skarsgard as Detective Eddie Argo merely walks through the script trying to look serious all the time. He’s such a flawed character, driven by weak writing and performance, that he fails to earn any of the intended sympathy necessary to make his final scene ring emotionally with the audience. Instead of feeling compassion, we’re just grossed out. Selma Blair gives a very good performance as Jean, the killer. She’s so underutilized that we’re left feeling a bit cheated that the film failed to take us deeper into her mind and actions. I have to believe that both of these ladies are asking themselves what they were thinking when they signed on to this mess.
The Killing Gene is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This is a very dark film, both in subject and in its physical lighting. The amateurish cinematography also extends to lighting choices. If the film exhibited a decent detail of shadow, some of this could have been rather atmospheric. Instead it looks too often like it was just shot badly. Colors are mostly subdued, as is almost any expectation of detail. There is only moderate grain and compression artifact.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is another example of an almost amateurish approach to filmmaking. There’s just no imagination at all. There’s a ton of thumping bass in the soundtrack, but it never makes it out of the sub woofers. The ambients are almost never used. Even dialog is difficult to understand frequently, not helped by the just bad job the actors did of projecting. Most of this thing sounds like it was recorded with a cheap condenser mic from an old portable cassette recorder.
Deleted Scenes: There are three scenes providing just over 4 minutes of footage. There is a handy play all option. There’s nothing of value here unless you’d just like to see another torture scene.
The Making Of The Killing Gene: This feature clocks in at just under 20 minutes. The film was apparently made on the location that the Titanic was built on. That makes two disasters that were born here. After watching this feature I’m not so surprised at the amateur nature of the film. There’s a lot of disorganization here. There’s cars running over cameras and blackboards tumbling on the set. I was also surprised by just how much sitting around and smoking was done on the set. Did Phillip Morris sponsor this thing?
Torture Featurette: This little over 4 minute piece shows us how some of the prosthetic and make-up f/x worked. Again the piece demonstrates just how much standing around there was on this set. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.
An In-depth Chat With The Director, Producer, and Screenwriter: This 18 minute piece features the three stooges themselves. Director Tom Shankland is the worst of the lot. He pretty much admits to a resentment toward the influence American films have on European culture and tells us this was his way of getting even. He also talks like he’s got rocks in his mouth. No wonder everybody else sounded so bad, if he was giving dialog coaching.
I had much higher hopes for this film. I tend to gravitate toward these weird serial killer films. Dimension also has a pretty good reputation with their Extreme series, so I went into this expecting a bloody good time. At worst I figured it might be over the top and a little contrived. What I never saw coming was this mangled and dreadfully slow death march of a film. Ultimately the question I was asking myself was: Would I let someone I love watch this film? The answer is a resounding no, and I didn’t need an algebraic equation to figure it out. The final 10 minutes are pretty intense and may be worth it to those of you who are into that. If that’s the case, just rent the thing and fast forward to the “good parts”. For the rest of you, “I hope all of that blood doesn’t give you nightmares.”