Killer Diller

by Alan Rapp on April 28, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Killer Diller was a labor of love for writer/director Tricia Brock (if you haven’t read our interview with her make sure you check it out) which finally will be released today.  The film is funny, charming, warm, quirky, with some great blues music that will leave your toes tappin’ after the credits role.  This one is worth checking out folks.

Killer Diller
4 Stars

Killer Diller, which opens today in a limited Midwest release (Kansas City, Columbia, St. Louis, Memphis and Nashville), is about a college half-way house, a guitar playing car thief, an autistic piano player, and some great blues music.  I would highly recommend seeing this film if it’s in your area, and if it’s not yet hopefully it will do well enough to earn a wider release over the next few weeks.

The story begins with Wesley (William Lee Scott), a career criminal (car jacking mostly) getting into a bar fight and thrown back in jail.  He is released into the custody of Ned (Fred Willard) who runs the B.O.T.A. house, a half-way house at a local college that helps reform convicts (Niki Crawford, Jared Tyler, RonReaco Lee, Ashley Johnson) by putting them in a band to perform religious hymns.  Wesley doesn’t make new friends in the house and when stranded one day he meets Vernon (Lucas Black) an autistic young man with an uncanny ability to play the piano.

To help save his own skin and the house, which the Dean (John Michael Higgins) wants to pull funding from thus sending everyone back to prison, Wesley brings Vernon into the band.  Vernon’s inclusion has immediate impact as the band shows signs of improvement.  As they play and talk Wesley and Vernon find common ground in a love of the blues and the band moves from Ned’s frightful religious tunes to playing the blues as “The Killer Diller Blues Band.”

The film was shot in Fayette, Missouri and because of that a remarkable thing happens.  We actually get a Midwestern film that looks like it was shot in the Midwest.  Writer/director Tricia Brock finds just the right local touches including the campus of Central Methodist University and the home of Vernon and his father (W. Earl Brown who gives a nice low-key perfomance here).

The entire cast puts on a good show both in front of the camera and on stage.  William Lee Scott and and Lucas Black carry the film as Wesley’s friendship with Vernon does what nothing else could do for him – make him reevaluate his life and think of others for a change.  Willard and Higgins are perfect as the bickering campus officials and their interplay provides constant enjoyment whenever they appear on screen together.  Add to that the sexy Niki Crawford singing out the blues with her sultry tones and you’ve got something quite original.

There are reasons to support independent films.  Many such films wouldn’t be possible under the constraints of the Hollywood system.  Killer Diller succeeds because it has a story to tell and knows how to present it to the audience without preaching (pretty good for a film that deals with religious themes), becoming too campy, or getting in its own way.  It’s a really fun time and a quite enjoyable film.  And no, I’m not going to tell you what B.O.T.A. stands for; go see the movie and find out!

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