Friday, 15 May 2015


Slasher movies.
One of the most crowded subgenres in Horror, it takes something pretty special to stand out from the rest. Recently there's been a real move toward openly and happily copying those classic flicks from the slasher heyday (see my recent reviews of Muck, The Pickaxe Murders Part III and Dorchester's Revenge: The Return of Crinoline Head)
However, there is still room to add a little innovation yet still keep the tropes that please fans of the subgenre (among whose number I count myself).
Chill: The Killing Games is the latest effort to take a stab (excuse the pun) at this.
So would I think it was a cool little flick?
Or would this one leave me cold?
Read on…


Dir: Noelle ByeMeredith Holland
Starring: Brad Arner, Roger Conners, Erinn Bakun, Kelly Joann Rogers, Jason Orr, Angelia DeLuca, Mike Kafury, D.J. Remark, David Gilmore, Rick Montgomery Jr., Bella Sin, Wednesday Vinson, Theresa Pedone, Janine Sarnowski, Ashton Katt

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much but continue at your own risk.

The movie opens with amateur video footage shot in 1988 featuring a group of college students taking part in a roleplaying game called Chill. This is a game in which lots are drawn and one player is designated the killer (by drawing a yes) and the rest victims (by drawing a no). From here it is up to the killer player to 'kill' all of the others before a time limit expires or the killer is identified. However we soon learn that on this fateful night all of the players were murdered for real on the campus.
Current student Jared (Arner) is very interested in that night and delivers a talk on Chill to his fellow students — including curvaceous burlesque exhibitionist Chi Chi (Sin) — which is promptly interrupted and shut down by their lecturer Professor Walker (Montgomery). Soon, however, the cocky and self-serving Jared's motivation is made clear — he wishes to resurrect Chill, on the anniversary of the murders no less,  and turn it into a lucrative web series. Recruiting his best friend Kyle (Conners) to assist with the filming (and despite being told by several locals that remember the original tragedy that his idea is in exceptionally poor taste), Jared is able to draw all of his pieces together.
With film-making assistance from the gruff, no-nonsense Donnie (Gilmore), and a brief seance with medium Madame Iz (Vinson), a group of players are assembled in the auditorium and all exits from the building are locked, not to be reopened until morning.
He has gathered an eclectic mix of players, including online gaming guru Kent (Remark); former child star  Devin Montgomery (Orr) plus his long-suffering P.A. Maddison (DeLuca); alternative culture vlogger Raven (Rogers); investigative journalist Kelly (Bakun) and the reclusive relative of one of the original victims Tyler (Kafury).
As a large online audience logs on to watch, the game gets underway… but it's not long before the game starts to take a sinister turn, as a hooded, bird mask-wearing individual arrives on the scene and starts to stalk the players with deadly intentions.
Who is this masked killer? What motivation does the killer have? And who, if anyone, will last until morning?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): More than anything, I loved Chill: The Killing Games' cool premise. The whole legendary role-playing game made for an awesome hook, not least by adding the creepy seance element to suggest a supernatural undertone. Here writers Holland, Bye and Conners manage to give their movie a unique and interesting twist.
Of course, this isn't the only triumph in the writing, it's just the first of many. With it's large cast of shady characters, Chill manages to encapsulate that whodunnit feel of early slasher flicks as the audience is forced to look for clues as to the true identity of the killer. For the record, I didn't guess who it was, so kudos!
While we're talking about the characters I'd like to praise the writers for coming up with such a compelling bunch. From the wonderfully morbid Raven to the deluded Devin, from the camp and likeable Kyle to the crassly selfish Jared, via the grimly intense Tyler, this is a genuinely fascinating group. The characters are all given their moments with plenty of screen time to accommodate them all. It must be difficult writing for such a large ensemble but these guys nail it. 
The characterisation is helped with some pretty decent performances along the way, not least from Arner and Conners. The pair have a good onscreen chemistry and both manage to bring their characters to life admirably. Arner's Jared really is a total bastard and you can tell he's relishing playing such an irredeemable shit. Really excellent work, here. Conners confounds, seeming at first like a fun, if somewhat stereotypical, stock character before slowly morphing into the hero of the movie. He's fantastic in the role and I look forward to seeing more of him in the future.
I also thought the put-upon and world-weary Maddison was wonderfully realised by DeLuca. She's a very good actress indeed and has a cute girl-next-door vibe that makes her a great fit for the genre. I hope she sticks with horror for a bit longer, she could be a great scream queen.
Ditto for the hilarious (and very attractive) Rogers — she rocks the Goth look and attitude with conviction and has a couple of very funny lines. She's also involved in one of the most heart-wrenchingly horrific scenes and handles it capably. She's definitely one to watch.
Equally hilarious was Orr as the self-important and clueless 'star' Devin Montgomery. A lot of the humour came from his character and he showed some great comic timing. In a movie such as this we need the odd break from the tension and suspense and Orr shoulders most of this responsibility with aplomb. Good for him. The irrepressible Vinson also upped the humour quota with some sterling line delivery.
Finally, Bella Sin was quite the revelation. She's a natural, confident performer and while she doesn't have a lot of scenes in the movie, she utterly commands the screen during the time that she has. It's very impressive and charismatic work.
Of course characters are only half the story, for a horror film to really work we need a legit and frightening threat to their well-being. Here we get the Chill Killer (who I NEED to call The Chiller from now on). Looking a little like Saw's Jigsaw Killer in a theatrical hood with a skeletal bird mask, and viciously utilising a cool cane/dagger combo, this is a visually striking villain. Furthermore, the cruel and showy way in which the Chiller toys with victims before going to work makes the often-brutal murders all the more sadistic. A slasher film is usually judged by the coolness of its bad guy and the bloodiness of its kills. Chill: The Killing Games scores very highly on both fronts. The initial 'reveal' of the Chiller is a particular high point.
Bye and Holland have a real talent for building tension, then snapping the trap shut with bloody consequences. They use the dingy setting well and frame each shot in such a way that, while we can see exactly what is happening, the viewer can't help but worry about what might lurk just beyond the screen's edge. This is a vital tool for crafting well-worked scares. Then, when the frights do come, they hit hard and fast. At least two murders drew dismayed groans and gasps from me. Hey Hollywood, who'd have thought that something as simple as giving us characters to care about, then offing them in nasty ways would get an audience onside?

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Chill: The Killing Games is a very low budget flick. It's a very, very good one, but those budgetary constraints are apparent in places. 
The most notable of these is probably the sound mixing. There are some very odd balances on the audio. Shooting a lot of scenes in a large, echoey auditorium probably didn't help matters much. As such the volume levels do tend to fluctuate, and every now and then there is a little too much ambient noise in the background.
Thankfully this never renders any vital lines of dialogue indecipherable, but it does prove a little distracting at times.
Equally, while the lighting was pretty good throughout, a couple of darker scenes did become a little murky. These were pretty few and far between though.
A key area often hit by lower funding levels is the amount of blood and guts onscreen. Chill does pretty well here, but the vast majority of splatter is shown in the gruesome aftermath of the murders. Gorehounds may be a little disappointed in the kills themselves. I'm cool with this, the kills often use the viewer's imagination to conjure some horrific scenarios, which are only heightened by the mutilated remains shown later.
Finally, while I feel Chill: The Killing Games deserves plenty of praise for its openly gay protagonist (especially in a genre that has a history of being especially spiteful towards the gay community) I did feel that earlier on the characterisation veered perilously close to stereotypical campiness. However, part of me feels this may be by design, lulling viewers into thinking that he may be one of those all too hastily dispatched gay characters from the less enlightened slasher flicks of yesteryear, cranking up the tension regarding his chances of survival. Given the way in which the cast and crew are quite rightly very proud and vocal about their support of the LGBT community, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it was just a case of very cleverly subverting expectations.

THE VERDICT: Perhaps the most telling fact about my feelings towards Chill: The Killing Games is that after watching the movie, I saw that Chill 2: The Bone is on the way and I thought: 'Alright!'
Chill was a cool horror flick with a nice modern premise but good old-fashioned slasher sensibilities. It has some great characterisation, a kick ass villain and does plenty to overcome its budgetary limitations and deliver a rewarding viewing experience. With a central mystery that I can't wait to see explored further in the the sequel, I'll be more than happy to keep chilling with these filmmakers.
If you want to check out the movie, I suggest you head over to Chill's official Facebook page and keep your eyes peeled for any updates. Give it a Like while you're there too, show some support!

If you haven’t already, do please check out and like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to! Alternatively, follow me on twitter: The House@HickeysHorrors

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

No comments:

Post a Comment