The Chaos Experiment (2009) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Producer/director Philippe Martinez steps behind the camera with surprisingly effective results in this moody, intense and very unsettling horror/drama. Combining equal parts police procedural and Saw, somehow it works. Due in no small part to outstanding performances from underrated screen vets Val Kilmer and Armand Assante. Both are at the height of their game here. A juicy script by Robert Malkani gives each a chance to show their depth as actors and both are equally up to the task.

Six people are trapped in a steam room somewhere in an undefined metropolis. Kilmer walks into the offices of a local newspaper. He declares he is the man holding these people hostage and wants his story to dominate the front page. Assante is called in to investigate the case, he is so good at playing this type of role that he slips into it like a silk suit.

The film cuts back and forth from the cat and mouse verbal sparring of the two leads and the chaotic goings on inside the steam room. As the temperature nears 130 degrees the mental stability of all is tested and it truly becomes a situation of survival of the fittest. While the plot has more than a few gaping holes, it plays well in the moment. As a director, Martinez brings a European flavor to the proceedings. Operatic music on the soundtrack during an especially brutal death scene and employing a sun drenched over-exposed look to suggest the weight of the heat within the sauna are just a few examples.

Old-school pros Kilmer, Assante, Eric Roberts (a little underused, yet always fun to watch) and a sneaky job from Patrick Muldoon carry the film through it’s trouble spots. The narrative is slightly over the top in the third act and the style is heightened almost to the point of melodrama. In the vein of Brian DePalma’s early work. Also known as The Steam Experiment.

Director: Philippe Martinez
Stars: Val Kilmer, Armand Assante, Eric Roberts, Patrick Muldoon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *