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The Killing Box - The Killing Box( Blu Ray) [Scorpion Films/Ronin Flix - 2023]

The Killing Box (aka Grey Knight, Ghost Brigade, Lost Brigade ) is a civil war-based drama-come-thriller, with some slight supernatural/ horror undertones. The early 1990s film features good to passable acting, moments of wartime tension, attempts at eerier atmospherics, and the odd dash of gore. From Scorpion Releasing/ Roni Flix is a bare-bones region A release of the film.

The Killing Box appeared in the year 1993. It was directed by St. Louis, Missouri-born George Hickenlooper. Between the early ’90s and early 2010s, he had thirteen feature lengths to his name- these went from Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991) which is a documentary charting the making of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. Onto LA set drama regarding a group of male twenty-somethings The Low Life (1995), though to Factory Girl (2005) a biopic regarding folk singer/Andy Warhol collaborator Edie Sedgwick. The Killing Box was his first fiction-based film, and aside from the rather uneven genre blending- there are issues with the film's pacing/ flow- which at times make it all rather trying- even at its one-hour and twenty-two runtime.

Before I go any further, I need to mention I’m not the biggest fan of Civil War set films, and my interest in the film is largely down to the horror elements. So as a result, I’m going to be somewhat biased against the main/ key elements here….with that in mind let’s get to a rough plot rundown.

The film is set in the 1860s and focuses on Capt. John Harling played by Adrian Pasdar, who will be known to horror fans for his role of a farm teen in love with a vampire Caleb in 1987’s Near Dark. The capt, who was hoping to finish his service & return home, is tasked by Abe Lincoln like bearded Gren Haworth(Martin Sheen) to go and investigate why several bands of troops who have been slaughtered- where the soldiers have been nailed to poles, jaws ripped open and similar.

On his mission, he’s joined by the smug & pompous Col George Thalman(Ray Wise), gone off the rails & imprisoned for losing his troop Col. Nehemiah Strayn(Corbin Bernsen), and seemingly unable to speak African American slave Rebecca(Cynda Williams) who has seemingly second sight/ supernatural powers.

The film largely revolves around the group tracking through the sun-beaten American south- coming across stragglers, monuments to past deaths, and having general tense interactions between the troops. When the horror element is revealed- we find out that it’s zombie-like US troops who are doing the killing. But instead of your standard zombie look/ make up- their faces are smeared with war paint, and from time to time talk in mock trying to sound like a monster voice….so, as a result, they never seem threatening/ or scary.

Though-out the film there is an attempt to create an eerier/ creepy atmosphere- but this never really hits home. Pasdar often talks, within the film & as a voice-over with a gruff sort of whisper. The surrounding cast is ok- Wise is effective in his rather cold smugness, Bernsen plays well enough the haunted col, and William’s managers to create some mystery. The issue at the main/ centre of the film is a rather uninspired civil war mission- which I really never carried for, or was invested in. The horror/supernatural element move from the opening scenes of quite impressive gore, to the attempts at creating an eerier/ supernatural atmosphere.

Moving onto the region A locked Blu-Ray, and it features an HD 1080p- this looks good, though at times is a little bit of a double-edged sword as the zombies & their warpaint look even less chilling (if that’s possible). There is nothing else on the disc, aside from the film.

I’d guess if you are coming into The Killing Box as a fan of the civil war drama/ low-key thriller form you’ll get more from the film than I did. But sadly, for me, there’s just not enough horror in the film's make-up, and its attempts at atmosphere/ tension just fell flat.

Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5

Roger Batty
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