KILLER THERAPY (2019)
Directed by Barry Jay
Written by Barry Jay, Andrew Krop (as Andrew J. Scheppmann)
Starring Elizabeth Keener, Thom Mathews, Michael Qeliqi, Emma Mumford, Jonathan Tysor, Ivy George, Angelique Maurnae, P.J. Soles, Michael Dempsey, Javon Johnson, Adrienne King, Richard Ellis, Daeg Faerch, Nicole Marie Appleby, Lola Davidson, Tamika Katon-Donegal, Aidan Lewis, Yumarie Morales, Grahame Wood
Director Barry Jay seems to have a pretty poor opinion about therapy, as evidenced by the abysmal representation he offers in his film KILLER THERAPY, which seems to want to blame the system rather than the individual in terms of criminal and psychotic behavior. Now, I’m not saying there isn’t an argument that institutionalization doesn’t have its adverse effects on the human psyche, but I don’t think this film is helping that case one bit.
KILLER THERAPY follows the tragic life of Brian Langston (played by Jonathan Tysor as a kid and Michael Qeliqi as an adult). In and out of psychiatric facilities through most of his life, every time Brian tries to go home and reacquaint himself with a normal life something happens to toss him back inside a mental hospital with a worse therapist than he had before. As with most kids in the system in real life, Brian runs the gauntlet of therapists, medications, and treatments and by the time he is of adult age, he doesn’t really know anything but the inside of a hospital, yet he is released and send home nevertheless.
This pretty much encapsulates the first hour of KILLER THERAPY, but if you read the synopsis of it, the film seems to want to be called a slasher. Unfortunately, the serial killer/slasher aspects really do not come into play until the last half hour. And all of that takes place within about a five-minute montage. Needless to say, this isn’t your typical slasher, though Brian seems to slip right into slasher territory pretty easily in the last act. Filmmaker Barry Jay really seems to want to let the viewer know every minute of abuse, torment, and self-fulfilling prophecy that occurs in Brian’s life. Had the final half hour been worth the wait for the real carnage to occur, I would have supported this journey. But the film builds to such a lackluster, cliched, and rushed climax that it really does feel like the filmmakers simply forgot what kind of film they were making.
On top of that, the therapy given in this film is either terrible, utterly outdated, or completely simplified. Again, each therapist is introduced and like a Bond villain, discourses maniacally about the process they are about to put Brian through, which takes a crazy chunk of time. If there was need for a montage, instead of tossing it at the end for the murder spree, how about a montage of each of the therapies Brian receives. Or have one therapist use a myriad of techniques on Brian to simplify the story. In the end, this is just an overcomplicated mess of a film that overshoots its point with simply too much story to tell, not enough focus, and not enough understanding of how therapy works.
I had a writing professor once tell me to write out a whole back story for my characters, including a detailed history of what lead them to the moment the story begins. He then said, put that away in a drawer and reference it from time to time, but don’t use it as your story. It will enrich the story and make the character much more interesting, but don’t use it as the main story. I wish the folks behind KILLER THERAPY would have taken that advice. In the end, KILLER THERAPY feels more like a Lifetime movie depicting the tragic life of a kid in and out of mental institutions starring some notable names in horror like P. J. Soles, Adrienne King, Thom Matthews, and the kid who played kid Michael Myers in Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN. Had these actors starred in a real slasher film, I’d be more impressed. But any slasher elements seem like an afterthought, making the arduous road to the climax not worth the trip.
To end on a positive note, KILLER THERAPY does open on a memorable and effective note as we are introduced to young Brian wearing a monster mask. It’s a fantastic prelude of the monster Brian will become and is a wonderful jump scare. I only wish the scares would have continued to be as good after that.