• 68 Kill

    Released by: Shout! Factory/Scream Factory
    Released on: January 9, 2018
    Director: Trent Haaga
    Cast: Matthew Gray Gubler, AnnaLynne McCord, Alisha Boe, Sheila Vand, and Sam Eidson
    Year: 2016
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    The Movie:

    68 Kill is a professionally directed, photographed, scored, designed, and acted film about some of the most viciously unpleasant people that have ever appeared on screen. On a technical level it’s solid, but when it comes to the creative and emotional merits of director Trent Haaga’s adaptation of the Bryan Smith novel, this film is a depressing, joyless experience that I never want to subject myself to for as long as I live. I will watch Caligula 1000 times before I grant 68 Kill the honor of a second viewing.

    But as surprising as it may be for you to read, I didn’t hate this film. Until it takes an even darker turn during its third act, burying us up to our scalps in torture and utterly despicable people, 68 Kill is a moderately entertaining little throwback to the 1990’s indie film scene when Quentin Tarantino’s success inspired legions of budding directors to crank out violent crime comedies on low-budgets with desperate casts.

    Criminal Minds’ Matthew Gray Gubler stars as Chip, an amiable loser with a job that consists of pumping sewage, a ramshackle trailer for a home, and nothing in his refrigerator but cheap beer. It’s not much of a life, but what gets Chip is the deep and passionate love he feels for his girlfriend Liza (AnnaLynne McCord), whose daytime activities regularly involve banging their disgusting landlord Ken (David Maldonado) to pay the rent. During one of these visits to Ken’s house, Liza discovers he has a safe in which he’s stowed away $68,000 that he plans on spending on a canary yellow Lamborghini (gross). She entices a reluctant Chip to help her break into Ken’s and steal the money, as it would go a long way towards relieving their financial burden, but he doesn’t count on the woman he loves murdering Ken and his wife in cold blood once it’s in their possession.

    Forced to take as a hostage Violet (Alisha Boe), a young woman who was at the house for reasons unknown, the lovers flee. As if things weren’t twisted enough, Chip unexpectedly breaks off the relationship with Liza after she suggests selling Violet to her greasy deviant brother Dwayne (Sam Eidson) for his own diseased purposes. He takes off into the night with Violet at his side and they develop a romantic bond while Liza and Dwayne give violent chase. This is where I will end my synopsis because the story takes some interesting turns in the final half-hour that I wouldn’t want to come close to spoiling, even if it’s pretty rough to watch.

    If I could sum up 68 Kill with one word, it would be “ugh”. Of course, that’s more of an exclamation than a word really, but that’s exactly how I felt once the film was over. Haaga, who also wrote the script, started his career acting, producing, and writing for Troma Entertainment, and it shows in the work he’s done outside the house that Toxie built. 68 Kill comes packing the splattery gore and in-your-face attitude of Troma’s finest features, but it lacks heart and soul. Outside of Chip and Violet (and don’t go getting too attached to her – just sayin’), there isn’t a single sympathetic character in this film. They’re horrible people living in an even worse world.

    From the beginning, we get that Chip dearly loves Liza, but she doesn’t seem to have much love or even respect for him. She treats him like a child, cruelly dismisses the sweet proclamations of affection, and is such a messed-up excuse for a human being that she’s willing to subject him to horrific violence just to hold on to an amount of stolen money that isn’t worth as much as it was a few decades earlier. Once Liza lets her psychotic side out for a breath of fresh air, it starts to become clear that her relationship with Chip is an abusive one.... only he’s the abused in this pairing. AnnaLynne McCord (90210) finds the charismatic monster in Liza, while Gubler matches and surpasses her performance as the poor slob trapped in a waking nightmare and trying to rescue and redeem what’s left of his miserable life before he loses it all.

    The complicated relationship between Chip and Liza is the only real emotional core 68 Kill has, because Violet isn’t much of a character and Alisha Boe (13 Reasons Why) valiantly fails at making a cypher of a role into flesh. That her chemistry with Gubler is virtually nonexistent doesn’t help matters any, but Poe regardless has a few good scenes. The best has her delivering an ice-cold putdown to irritating Goth convenience store clerk Monica, played with sleepy-eyed depravity by Sheila Vand (Argo), who reigns supreme as the single most hateworthy individual in this sleazy narrative and unfortunately is brought back later for the gruesome finale. Hilarious in a deeply disturbing manner as the weirdo Dwayne is Sam Eidson, who I thought was great as the antisocial antihero of the charming and original RPG comedy Zero Charisma from 2013.

    The direction by Haaga is energetic and professional, balancing out the graphically violent moments and multiple sex scenes with some gorgeous, deliberately paced shots and stellar nighttime cinematography. Working with editor Valerie Krulfeifer (Carnage Park), he keeps the action tense and moving at a perfect clip, helped along by a decent soundtrack from James Griffiths and Haim Frank Ilfman (Big Bad Wolves) that makes room for a surprising but welcome appearance from the 1979 synthpop chart-topper “Pop Muzik” by the British group M that provides 68 Kill with a nice break from the mayhem and a character bonding moment for Chip and Violet that works well. After all, it was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who once said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.”


    Released theatrically by IFC Midnight, 68 Kill comes to Region A Blu-ray from Shout! Factory with a solid 1080p high-definition transfer presented in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The digital cinematography of Needham B. Smith is very crisp and brings with it a lurid color scheme that favors blood reds and sickly formaldehyde greens, with facial details and scenic texture looking their best and boldest. Alongside the transfer are two exceptional English DTS-HD Master Audio options, but it’s the 5.1 track that really allows the active, layered sound mix to shine with meticulous arrangement and a lack of distortion. The 2.0 stereo track might be more appropriate if you’re watching the film on a standard television set without additional speakers, as it does just as well as the 5.1 option. English and Spanish subtitles have also been provided.

    The only bonus features are a trailer for 68 Kill (2 minutes) and upfront previews for A Dark Song, The Survivalist, and The Devil’s Candy. We also get a Region 1 DVD copy and reversible cover art. Better than nothing, I guess, or is it?

    The Final Word:

    I might have enjoyed 68 Kill more had it been made when I was a bored, lonely high school kid prowling the racks of my neighborhood video store on a Friday night, looking for a good cheap thrill. Its technical proficiency, good performances, and willingness to take the plot into unconventional, and often uncomfortable, territory makes it worthy enough for a single watch, but your mileage may vary when it comes to subsequent viewings. Due to the lack of supplements on this Blu-ray (a director or cast commentary and a behind-the-scenes documentary would have been nice at least), I wouldn’t recommend picking this one unless you can find a copy either cheap or used.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!