02nd Feb2021

‘Killer Therapy’ VOD Review

by Chris Thomas

Stars: Michael Qeliqi, Adrienne King, Elizabeth Keener, Thom Mathews, PJ Soles, Michael Dempsey, Trevor Dow, Richard Ellis, Daeg Faerch, Mickey Faerch, Nicole Marie Appleby, Skyler Caleb, Lola Davidson | Written by Barry Jay, Andrew Krop | Directed by Barry Jay

The premise of Killer Therapy is quite simple… It’s We Need to Talk About Kevin minus the magic. I wrote that line, about 20 minutes into the film, and it is broadly true but, having got an hour in, it seems churlish and unfair. Having seen the film to the conclusion, I can say this is 1 hour and 20 minutes of carefully crafted and developed film. Then 10 minutes of silly, jokeresque stabbing.

It is really disappointing to say that, because right up to the end of the film, this was going to be an extremely positive review.

Our young man Brian is from a wealthy, albeit slightly dysfunctional family. His Mum is close to him, and potentially ignores some red flags regarding his behaviour. His dad seems to resent Brian, and his wife’s coddling. At the beginning of the film, he is introduced to his new, adopted sister, Aubrey. Aubrey is young, pretty, intelligent and a nice person. Brian is older (13) and has a slew of personal problems, including violent tendencies. “Brian hates me” says Aubrey after their first day. As their mum says “Brian is, different. He really does not mean all the bad things he says”. Except that he does.

Brian’s behaviour is clearly driving a wedge between his parents (the therapist Mum seems to turn a blind eye to the clearly unhinged behaviour.) The young actor who plays Brian (Michael Qeliqi) does a particularly good job; his parents send him to therapy. This “secret therapy”, it is fair to say does not help Brian, so much as get him abused. Brian then runs up against a chubby bully which leads to a drastic change to Brian’s life.

6 years later, Brian is armed with a slew of mantras to help him cope with life. He does not cope well. He is a bit of a weirdo, until he gets upset, at which point he gets extremely dangerous. Brian is unhappy and something is wrong with him. His experience is one of therapists trying to “fix him” over the course of his young life, and in doing so, each time he is further brutalized.

There is the suggestion that the parents, on some level know that Brian is a bad seed, hence they adopted a daughter, in case a second child would be tainted in the same way..

Killer Therapy is a lot better than I was expecting. Yes, the title is silly and the synopsis rings alarm bells. But the film is far better than the usual B-movie red flags would indicate. Brian is a ticking time bomb of violence. Once his anger gets out of control, he IS going to be committing violence, but it is handled in a far slicker and more natural way than I was expecting. There are bits that do not make sense but given the quality of the piece I am willing to go along with it. The film has a horror inflection, but it is more of a character drama. Brian is trying to be a functional member of society; it is just that society is not terribly nice at times. Brian wants a normal life, but his problems, and how they are handled makes that impossible.

Some of the acting is not brilliant but, especially given the large cast, the performers do a decent job.

The direction and cinematography are decent, and the plot has a good balance between character development and violence (until the final hurdle, at least). All the usual film making boxes we look for are ticked. It is, however, unlikely that Brian would not have been picked up on his murder rampage sooner.

Killer Therapy is however all far more sombre than the synopsis would have us believe. This is (until the final 10 minutes) not an exploitation film; this is not a rollocking rampage of revenge. It is a sad and sombre slide into madness. However the final 10 minutes turn into a Joker style pop-montage of grizzled gonzo revenge the film did NOT need. There is a weird tension between quality film-making, and the silly titled, “Joker-lite” that the production company seemed to want to make. The tension between these two, totally different, films is unresolved. I would be really interested to hear from Barry Jay, the films writer and producer, to see exactly what happened here. I can’t quite make sense of it.

Killer Therapy is skilfully made and better than I was expecting; until the aforementioned final 10 minutes when the film lost its nerve. So close.

Killer Therapy is available on Sky Store and can be rent & bought on Amazon here

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