Killer Concept, 2021.
Directed by Glenn Payne.
Starring Glenn Payne, Casey Dillard, Coley Bryant, Caroline Upthegrove, and Caleb Hall.
Three creatives team up to write a screenplay chronicling a string of murders in their town, but one of the three may be closer to the story than the others realise.
The time-honoured tradition of horror as a breeding ground for determined filmmakers with limited resources is alive and well in Glenn Payne’s (Driven) new release Killer Concept, which if failing to deliver fully on its meta potential at least benefits from the clear enthusiasm of its cast and crew.
The affably self-reflexive story follows screenwriter Holly (Casey Dillard) and producer Seth (Coley Bryant) as they attempt to develop a slasher film based on a still-active local serial killer. The pair rope in their pal Mark (Glenn Payne) to help crack the story, unaware that he happens to be the very killer they’re dramatising.
If you haven’t got the budget for a blood-soaked horror romp, going the meta-comedy route certainly makes sense, and to a point Payne’s film pulls it off. Killer Concept is a film about horror fans made for horror fans, gently ribbing their insatiable desire for nudity and gore, while also passing comment on the “responsibility” of genre filmmakers adapting real-life events.
By revealing the identity of the killer mere minutes into the film, Payne gets to play with the genre’s conventional form, playfully cutting between Mark’s attempted murders and his contributions to his pals’ screenplay – both acts of dubious creativity in their own rights.
The cuteness of the setup speaks for itself, though the script – penned by star Casey Dillard – feels like it could go so much further as genre satire. The potential for a snake-swallowing-its-own-tail horror-comedy is self-evident, but both the horror and comedy elements are ultimately a little too tepid to entirely satisfy.
The suspense in waiting to see how Mark’s extracurricular activities collide with his friendships is palpable to a point, though the looseness of the hybrid genre aspects means the pic is left wanting for punchy impact when it matters most in the third act.
The lack of both truly howl-worthy one-liners and goopy gore are also disappointing, though there’s admittedly a low-slung charm to the film’s presentation – many cast members pulled double-duty as crew members – which makes it an easy film to root for.
Its true triumph, however, lies in the chemistry of the central trio; Dillard in particular has an appealingly spunky screen presence throughout, and while the banter rarely rises to true hilarity, there’s a breezy, hanging-out-with-friends vibe to much of their chit-chat.
It might be a little too cutesy and thinly written for some, but it’s easy to appreciate the effort on such a demonstrably tight budget and with minimal crew, while coming in at a lithe 80 minutes.
Killer Concept doesn’t quite take its horror or comedy far enough, but there’s clear talent behind the production, and I’m curious to see what they come up with next.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.