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I Would Do Anything For Love: A Review of Trent Haaga’s “68 Kill”

We’ve all been there before; “happily” in a relationship with someone that we couldn’t imagine being with in our wildest dreams. The other person seems to be completely out of your league and you’re willing to do anything in the world to please them. You justifiably believe that you’re “in love”, and you get put down every second of every day. You’re this person’s puppy dog. You’ll do anything this person asks and once in a while she, or he, will throw you a bone. Well what happens when that person takes things a little too far and asks you to do the unthinkable? Well, when this concept is in the hands of Trent Haaga, hilarity and excellence ensues.

Trent Haaga is one of my all-time favorite “creative people” in terms of the film world. I say creative people because he’s done it all. He’s written some of the craziest, yet fantastic, films in the genre world, such as Cheap Thrills and Deadgirl. He took a horror icon to another level when he took over the title role in Killjoy 2. And, I’ll never quite forget the first time I saw him in Terror Firmer as the lovable, Jerry. If you can’t tell, I’m a fan. From his horror work to his game work, and even his Lifetime films, I always tend to enjoy Haaga’s creative mind and what he brings to the table. As soon as I found out that he was hopping into the director’s chair a second time, firstly being with his former Troma pal Will Keenan for Chop, I was ecstatic. I can definitely say, I was not disappointed.

The film stars Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds) as Chip, a lovable everyman who just wants to make an honest living and provide a decent life for his gorgeous girlfriend, Liza, played by AnnaLynne McCord. Right off the bat Haaga shows us the dynamic of the relationship. Chip is head over heels in love with this girl who honestly cares very little for anyone but herself. Honestly, I know I’m looking deep into what many may consider a “grindhouse” flick but I related more to Chip than any other character in the past few years. I was in a relationship like this for almost 5 years. I saw myself in Chip and that’s when I knew I was 100% along for the ride.

While Chip does his best to make an honestly living, the majority of the money made to sustain their living situation comes from Liza. She supplements their income with a sugar daddy, who makes the mistake of revealing to her the amount of money he really has. Liza presents Chip with the brilliant idea of taking the cash and running away, together forever. While hesitant at first, Chip agrees to go along with the plan as long as no one gets hurt. What happens next is a whirlwind of blood, death, and laughs!

68 Kill’s strength lies in the fact that it refuses to stay tied down. While many would agree that overall there is a dark comedic tone, there’s also a genuinely fantastic mashup of horror, action, and even a bit of 70’s exploitation thrown in. The movie is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before and I attribute that to Haaga’s experience with Troma and beyond. He pulls aspects of almost everything he’s worked on and applies it here. I haven’t had the chance to read the original novel by Bryan Smith, but I can only assume it was done justice by the film. My only criticism with the film is that I wish it had been about 15-20 minutes longer. There is a portion in the middle of the film that takes place at a motel. Without giving too much away, I wish this was explored a little bit further.

Let’s talk cast! Matthew Gray Gubler and AnnaLynne McCord have fantastic chemistry as leading “less than dynamic” duo. Gubler is phenomenal as Chip. He didn’t allow Chip to become pathetic, a task that is easier said than done. McCord is fantastic too as she gave her character just enough of a bitchy edge to make us dislike her without being annoyed. Rounding out the main cast would be the excellent Alisha Boe as Violet. Avoiding spoilers, Violet stumbles upon the couple as they’re breaking in to steal the money. She another dimension to the journey that Chip is on, and that’s what this film is all about, the journey.

Honestly, that’s all I can get into while avoiding spoilers. When the film hits Bluray/DVD I would love to give a more in depth review discussing plot points and such. IFC Midnight is killing it in the independent distribution game. Earlier this year they put out one of my favorite films, The Devil’s Candy and this is right up there with that. This is a serious contender for one of my top 5 films of the year. Trent Haaga continues to impress me with his contributions to the world of “genre film”. From the outside this film looks like another movie trying to cash in on the horror audience’s nostalgic need for “grindhouse films”. On the inside, this is a touching movie about a guy trying to truly find himself in the madness that is happening around him. But don’t get me wrong, the kills are excellent!

68 Kill comes to iTunes, Amazon Video, and all other VOD outlets on 8/4/17. It is also available on cable On Demand (XFINITY; Spectrum or your local carrier) and in select theaters in NYC and L.A.