There is a good film buried deep somewhere within Anonymous Killers but unfortunately, it doesn’t quite surface during its runtime...
...Very few films make me cringe and I can almost always identify something redeemable or worthwhile to highlight. As a genre fan, it’s easy to find something that either works well or at least could - if given a different script, cast, or delivery. Sadly, Anonymous Killers is a rare case where I wasn’t able see any of that, despite the intriguing ideas it tries to explore. I will say this, and I’ve said it before, any film that is made is worth praise just for being willed into existence. The sheer amount of work it takes to get it from page to screen is always a journey, so every member of the team that brought Anonymous Killers to life deserves praise for that accomplishment. Still, I have to be honest and say the film didn’t work for me.
Writer/director A.R. Hilton’s Anonymous Killers tells the tale of five killers trapped in a room by a mysterious man who has set up a game where they must all decide the fate of their fellow captives by voting upon whether or not each lives or is punished. The film’s technique is to tell the story through the characters’ flashbacks. What led them to a career of murder? Are all of them equally as guilty as their peers? How will the dishonest judge the fate of another’s crimes? It is certainly an intriguing idea and a concept worth exploring, however, the means of doing so falls flat in nearly every element of the execution. Each character flops; even the mysterious stranger who collected all the killers is written so half-heartedly that any chance to understand the individual’s motivation is left behind at the start of the film. Each of the actors does a good job with the role they are given, but there is no room for nuance or growth, and thus little praise to be dispersed. Shallow can only go so far, and a film that should provoke insight into the mind of what makes a killer could have easily been something that makes a viewer want to tune in. Instead, Hilton’s overuse of backstory and one-liners without any real exposition makes any attempt at being clever fall flat before it can hit its mark.
The biggest flaw is its pacing and editing. The film jumps in and out of the different characters' lives so quickly, and with too many details repeated, that the attempt to show the corrupted innocence of each of the captive killers rings hollow. When the camera moves around so much from backstory to backstory it doesn’t allow either the viewer or captives to examine their motives with any real depth. The way scenes are cut and pieced together amounts to no semblance of structure that will endear anyone to the characters that are on the screen. By the time the end of the film shows up, there is really nothing of substance to be gained or taken away. The end is gory, I will give the film that, but it doesn’t have quite the right impact, because there isn’t much in it that seems to be leading to that point. Instead, the plot seems to be taking no direction and then WHAM hits us with some excessive violence. It at times feels like a SAW film with all the gore but none of the creativity or depth.
I believe someone will find something that sticks with them about this film. Just because it wasn’t for me doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. I want to take a moment here to share a thought. The world is weird, especially right now, and I hope this film is watched and that maybe someone can glean something I am missing and realize something of value. It fell flat for me, but that doesn’t mean it has to for you. That is the beauty of this art form, there’s something for everyone to love in it, no matter how it touches anyone else.
Anonymous Killers is now available as a limited "theater at home" experience, and will be having a wider release this month from Amirah Films and Boston Dutch Productions on October 6th. Visit the film's site here to see where it's streaming.
By Justin Drabek
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