Earlier tonight, I happened to catch, on Chiller, the 2011 film The Killing Jar.
Why Was I Watching It?
I was hoping that, at some point, the classic Siouxsie and the Banshees song would show up on the soundtrack. It didn’t.
What’s It About?
I’m trying to work up the strength necessary to go into it all but basically, there’s this diner down south and one night, right around closing time, a news story comes over the radio about a brutal murder that was committed at a nearby farm. There’s only a few people left in the diner — a depressed waitress (Tara from Buffy, a.k.a. Amber Benson), a tough trucker (Kevin Gage), a wimpy deputy (Lew Temple), a mysterious stranger (Harold Perrineau), two teenagers who don’t matter, and the Danny Trejo-look alike who apparently owns the place (Danny Trejo). Anyway, all these people are so upset to hear about the murders that they blame them on the first surly stranger who happens to step into the diner. Unfortunately, that stranger is played by Michael Madsen and he responds by shooting up the place (Danny Trejo’s head explodes in close-up) and holding the survivors hostage. Things get a little bit more complicated when Mr. Greene (Jake Busey) shows up and reveals that someone at the diner happens to be a contract killer known as Mr. Smith. Guess what? It’s not Michael Madsen.
After typing all that, I feel I have a responsibility to add that this all sounds a lot more interesting than it actually is.
Well, the big “twist” is kinda obvious and you probably figured out just from reading the previous paragraph. However, it’s still kinda fun, kinda being the word to remember. Benson and Gage both give pretty good performances and Busey seems to be having a lot of fun. Madsen, to be honest, seems to be on the verge of falling asleep in a few scenes but still, he can say more with an annoyed eye squint than most actors can with a 10-page monologue. However, the film really belongs to the always underappreciated Harold Perrineau and his combative, confrontational scene with Madsen is one of the few instances when the film really comes to life.
Danny Trejo’s head explodes with style.
What Doesn’t Work
Oh. My. God. Where to begin?
I can count the number of succesful “hostage” films on one hand and let’s just say that The Killing Jar is no Dog Day Afternoon. Taking place entirely in one location and with a small cast mouthing melodramatic dialogue, The Killing Jar unfolds like one of those really bad plays that an ex-boyfriend of mine used to write in high school. They always ended with everyone dead and always seemed to feature at least one evil redhead who ended up crying over the dead body of her ex-boyfriend.
Director Young does not help matters by confusing tension with meaningless pauses. There’s a lot of scenes of people glaring at each other but since nobody really comes across like a human being, the glares don’t mean anything.
HOWEVER, what really didn’t work about this film was the fact that the first 20 minutes of the film was taken up with Amber Benson asking people if they wanted a slice of “Pecan Pie,” that she claimed was “the best this side of the Mason-Dixon.” The problem here is that the film was clearly meant to be set in my part of the world. And in my part of the world, we pronounce it “PEH-cahn.” However, Benson repeatedly pronounced it “PEE-can.” Seriously, this annoyed me more than words can express. Listen up all you aspiring filmmakers — if you’re going to insist on setting your crappy films in my part of the world, at least try to get the pronunciation right. Speaking for myself, I don’t have the slightest idea what a PEE-can is supposed to be but it sounds kinda nasty. I’ll take a PEH-cahn over a PEE-can any day.
PEH-cahn Pie. Good Lord, people, it’s not that difficult.
“Oh My God! Just Like Me!” Moments:
I have no desire to ever eat another pecan pie.