The Killing Room

You know those thrillers about a group of strangers who get locked in a room together and have to figure out how to escape? “The Killing Room” is one of those, except that neither the characters nor the things that happen to them are interesting. That kind of un-sweetens the pot, doesn’t it?

The set-up is that four ordinary people have signed up to be psychological test subjects for a government project. A couple of them have done things like this before: You fill out some forms, you do some weird tests, they pay you fifty bucks. No big deal.

But not this time! This time, things are different. This time, the test’s administrator, Dr. Phillips (Peter Stormare), shoots one of the test subjects in the head almost as soon as the test begins. (Is that a pass or a fail?) The remaining three are locked in the room and given a few tricky questions, but the answers don’t matter so much as their reactions to them.

On the other side of the bulletproof one-way mirror, Dr. Phillips explains to a new recruit, played by Chloe Sevigny, that part of the experiment’s goal is to make the subjects think that Islamic terrorists are behind it. The subjects — played by Timothy Hutton, Nick Cannon, Clea DuVall, and Shea Whigham — respond in the expected variety of ways (panic, logic, aggression, etc.), and there are casualties beyond the initial bullet-to-the-head.

The script is from a first-timer named Gus Krieger, reworked by Ann Peacock, and it has exactly one (1) good idea that materializes in the final moments. It’s not a surprise twist, exactly — just the explanation for what’s been going on. And it’s sort of neat, but not neat enough to justify the 90 minutes of derivative tedium that precede it. Also useless are dangling threads like the mention of Chloe Sevigny’s character being an expert at detecting lies — a skill that is never used or referred to ever again.

On the bright side, the director is Jonathan Liebesman, who previously made “Darkness Falls” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,” which means “The Killing Room” is his best film yet!

D+ (1 hr., 30 min.; R, abundant harsh profanity, some violence.)