2007, Movie, PG-13, 97 mins


A seminary student is tormented by a sadistic killer in this evangelical thriller adapted from Ted Dekker's popular novel. The story opens with a literal bang: High-profile police psychologist Jennifer Peters (Justine Waddell), author of "The Killing Mind," is taunted by a psychopath dubbed "Puzzle Killer" — PK (Bill Moseley) for short — who leads her on a merry chase before posing a cruel choice: Her brother, bound and gagged, is trapped in a car with a bomb on a timer. Opening one door will detonate the bomb immediately; opening the other won't, and she may be able to pull him to safety before it goes off.

The next victim is top-of-his-class seminarian Kevin Parson (Marc Blucas, of TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer), who's in his car when a cell phone — not his — rings, and a sneering voice tells him he's a liar, a sinner who needs to confess his transgressions, and that there's a bomb in his vehicle. Kevin escapes the blast and the police, including Peters, wonder how — no one has ever escaped one of PK's traps before. They also wonder whether he's being truthful when he claims to have no idea what "sins" he's being called upon to confess, and, in fact, he is not. PK continues to hound Kevin, who suspects the mystery is rooted in his miserable childhood. Orphaned as an adolescent, he was raised by his mad, abusive Aunt Belinda (Priscilla Barnes) and passive Uncle Eugene (Tom Bower), along with his mentally challenged cousin Bobby (Jeffrey Lee Hollis). Kevin's best friend from childhood, Samantha (Laura Jordan), shares his memories of strange, sullen teenager Slater (Jack Ryan), who bullied them both as children, but Samantha doesn't know why he suddenly disappeared. (One night Slater chased Kevin into a deserted warehouse, where Kevin got the upper hand and locked him in, leaving him to die.) But there's more to the mystery than that, as Peters learns in the film's preposterous double-twist ending.

Comparisons to the SAW series, minus the gore and nudity and with a healthy dollop of religious musings, are inevitable. And director Robby Hensen, whose previous credits run heavily to faith-based films (with the notable exception of 2002's Southern-fried mystery THE BADGE), keeps the action moving. Ultimately aimed at a Christian audience looking for genre entertainment with a certain sense of propriety (which partly translates into there being no murders), the film tries to serve two masters and doesn't quite deliver for either. — Maitland McDonagh leave a comment

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