AMERICAN KILLING (a.k.a. Wichita) * USA 2016 Dir: Matthew Ward & Justyn Ah Chong. 85mins
“Don’t try too hard to impress people” seems to be the watchword of this 2019 offering from the USA and High Octane productions. High octane it is not and the tortured writer Jeb really screws himself over in his attempts to impress his pushy screenplay producer.
The movie starts off slowly and never really picks up pace or shocks with a set of friends who come across as very disjointed people in a storyline that is very low on thrills. Jeb is using his friends to write an epic piece while at the same time giving reality to his voyeuristic fantasies and while slightly creepy the movie lacks the fear and suspense of greats like ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. The suspense is held off too much and plot development is far too mixed up and slow to make this an enjoyable thrill fest that stimulates the senses. The lead comes across as more of an amateur psychologist than a serial psycho and the story gets lost within itself having had great amusing potential with the comedy rebuttal at the beginning from Jeb’s crazy producers. The characters aren’t gelled and introduced properly and when Jeb’s dismissal from his show should bring some excitement the anger he portrays looks forced and out of place with even his sadness not adding to the intensity I was expecting from the title. And then come elements of ‘Carrie’ with the deep country, gun-toting and overbearing mother played well by Sondra Kerr Blake offered as an excuse for Jeb’s erratic and strange behaviour. He is an abject failure who at this point in the movie should be pushed over the edge enough to become a vicious psychopath, but Trevor Peterson smiles way too much for that and although his performance is an accomplished one the other characters come across as mere sides and are not involved enough in the strained plot development to push the dark ambience that the movie tries too hard to portray at times.
The only AMERICAN KILLING that goes on in this lacklustre effort is that of the potential of what could have been a promising horror suspense in a decidedly low octane soap opera about a troubled writer who can’t grasp reality and even the killings that eventually do occur come across as absurd and without any real meaning. And what was the point of the rat in an offering that fails to be even slightly disturbing despite it’s best efforts? The choice my friends is yours, but by the time I’d got to what was the exciting stuff I’d lost interest as Jeb’s madness was not built up enough in the movie’s earlier sequences for my taste. This movie sadly had the great potential to be both very disturbing and scary rather than silly and it’s lack of decent sound or special effects left it relying too much on the good acting of just one person, the tortured lead. A movie offering with a lot to learn. Short but very long. I found that even three smoke breaks, a couple of light beers and some popcorn and sushi struggled to make this one a nerve shredder.
Review by Nathan Sandiford