The Killing Device (1993)- * * *1\2
Directed by: Paul McFarlane
Starring: Antony Alda, Lee Gideon, Gig Rauch, Tom Berenson, and Clu Gulager
We're told right off the bat that whoever has THE KILLING DEVICE will become the "sole world power" on earth. Naturally that means a bearded inventor named Bob Sloan (Berenson) and his partner, Dr. Jack Finney (Gideon). Both men are past middle-aged, and Finney looks exactly like our 34th President, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Their 'device' is a microchip with a long antenna that is inserted directly into the subject's brain. This causes them to be an emotionless killing machine who will murder on command, then kill themselves. The two men operate in the back of a dentist's office, where they implant devices (they have a lot of them) into people so they can commit political hits, and no one's the wiser.
After being told their secret government funding is going to be cut, Sloane and Finney go rogue. Soon thereafter, many U.S. Senators are found dead, and a newspaper reporter named Kyle Summers (Alda) gets a tip about the nefarious deeds of Sloane and Finney. He takes a killing device for himself, but then has to go on the run when he's discovered. Both Kyle and a woman named Sara Richmond (Rauch) are hiding out because they might be next on the hit list. But what does a politician named Smitty (Gulager) have to do with any of this? Find out today!
With a vibe like R.O.T.O.R. (1987) or perhaps a Mats Helge movie, The Killing Device is an undiscovered gem. It has a lot of fun political dialogue in between the wackier 'killing device' scenes, and it's a bit reminiscent of AIP's Lock and Load (1990), but The Killing Device is better. The boardroom fight scene towards the beginning is clearly a highlight, which is why they put the nameless soldier front and center on the VHS box art. It's a little misleading (because the guy with the gun isn't the main hero of the piece), but we see what they must have been thinking.
There are many unusual things about The Killing Device. One is that the Finney and Sloan characters are concentrated on heavily, and it's not often you see two older men capering around doing bad stuff as the main focal point of a movie. Another odd thing is that it appears certain scenes were just cut out, regardless of how that would affect the continuity or flow of what would follow. This adds to a very fun "lack of logic" feeling that is quite enjoyable and puts The Killing Device ahead of its more standard contemporaries.
The idea that our villains could put the killing device into anybody was an interesting idea. In one scene, they turn a seemingly-harmless old biddy into a ruthless assassin. It's scary to think anybody could be a killing machine.
Antony Alda is Alan's half-brother. He plays the news reporter/hunk, of course. Somehow Kyle falls in love with Sara, even though she wears what just may be the most unflattering outfit seen on film for quite some time. Clu Gulager - not to be confused with Eb Lottimer - shows up as Smitty, but he blends in with a lot of characters that look a lot like him. So we got Clu and Gig together at last. But the man who steals the movie is Gary Wayne Cooper as Rod, Kyle's friend and co-worker. We would have liked to have seen more from him.
Speaking of which, The Killing Device is the only credit for director Paul McFarlane, Gig Rauch, Tom Berenson, and of course Gary Wayne Cooper, and probably a lot of the other cast and crew. For many others, it's only one of two credits (including the writer Kliff Keuhl, who must be cool because it's Kliff with a K, and his last name is probably said as "cool").
Another thing in the win column is the music. Not only does it have an engaging score, it also features a very memorable title song (we always love those) by an artist named Andy Gravity, and a Georgia Satellites-esque rocker called "Messy World" by Nick Two Barrada.
While The Killing Device has a final release date of 1993, there is a copyright date of 1990. It has a very late 80's feel to it, so it was likely shot in 1989 or earlier. Another possible clue about that comes when we see that a side character (a TV news cameraman) is wearing a Genesis Invisible Touch tour shirt for '87-88. Regardless of the release date, the film itself is well worth seeing. Like Cole Justice (1989), it was shot in Oklahoma. There are plenty of "rewindable" moments and the viewer wins all around.
Released by VCI Home Video back in the golden age of video stores, The Killing Device clearly shows that when it comes to tracking down obscure VHS - and we must quote the highly appropriate tagline - The hunt is on!
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty