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Country: United States
Starring: Val Kilmer, Dylan Neal, Paul McGillion, Camille Sullivan, Nels Lennarson, Chris Gauthier
Director: Michael Oblowitz
Run time: 91 minutes
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Val Kilmer just isn’t the marquee name he once was. He’s like the Petr Klima of the movie world. For a while, he showed flashes of true genius, and turned in some brilliant performances in some big time movies (The Doors). After a while though, those flashes were fewer and farther in between, and now he’s already a has-been, working in B-movies that go straight to DVD like The Chaos Experiment and The Traveler, out January 25th from Paramount Home Entertainment. It’s the movie equivalent of washing out of the NHL and closing out your career in the Russian Elite League.
The good news for Kilmer is that age isn’t as important in acting as it is in hockey. So, were he to recapture some of that skill that made him a bona fide star, he could make a comeback much more easily than say, Petr Klima. Or Allan Iverson. That being said, The Traveler (or any other movie of its ilk) is not the movie that will make this happen. This is strictly a paint-by-numbers horror movie, with very little to make it interesting, least of all Kilmer himself.
As the movie opens, Kilmer walks into a small-town police station in nowheresville, USA. He announces that he is there to confess to six murders. But wait – there are exactly SIX cops working there that night! It quickly becomes very obvious to everyone except the stupid cops that Kilmer is the spirit of a homeless drifter who was once beaten into a coma by…these very six cops!
Because all we get throughout the movie is a series of flashbacks to the beating of this drifter, we know exactly how each cop is going to die – the one who put a rope around his neck will be hung by a rope around his own neck…the one who cut him with the scissors will…well, you get the point. And so did I, nine minutes in. All that’s left is to wait until the cops die, one at a time, in the exact manner in which I fully knew they were going to die, and wait for the end which might provide some respite from the tedium.
But then it doesn’t. The end is actually worse than the rest of the movie, as it tries to turn the entire tone of the movie, the nature of Kilmer’s character, and the nature of the cops around 180 degrees. See, the reason these cops beat (and eventually killed) this drifter was that one of the cops’ daughters had gone missing, and they thought this guy was responsible. The Big Revelation at the end apparently discounts everything we’ve seen throughout the movie, and might logically have come before all these cops were mutilated and killed.
Either way, the entire movie hinges on Kilmer, relying on him to be creepy and scary. He tries to accomplish this by talking softly and being quiet and not moving a lot. Which is not, it turns out, scary at all. It’s boring. And since all the action in the film is telegraphed for twenty minutes before it happens, that’s boring too. And so that’s what The Traveler is. About as boring as gory horror movies get.