Killer Concept


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Killer Concept
"This is, at its core, a film about shattered illusions, but for most of its running time it’s surprisingly light." | Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

Seth (Coley Bryant) has wanted to make a movie for a long time. His head is bursting with ideas about all the fun stuff that should be in it but, as writer Holly (Casey Dillard) points out, none of them are very original. He thinks he might have the solution in the fact that a real serial killer is stalking their town. It’s a source of inspiration. It’s a great selling point. It’s horribly exploitative, says Holly. What about the third member of the team, photographer Mark (played by director Glenn Payne)? He’s nervous but intrigued – given that he is that serial killer.

A very low budget feature made with a small cast and a crew of just five people, and not the most original idea, Killer Concept is much better than it has any right to be. It screened at Frightfest 2021 and stood up well alongside much bigger productions. Apart from a few stylistic glitches, it looks very good, even in night scenes in locations which are challenging to light. The script is confidently written, the dialogue works for the characters and the acting is competent throughout. It also tells its story well enough that the fact we’ve seen this sort of thing before isn't a big problem. There’s a good balance of comedy and character-focused drama along with moments of tension.

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Of the three leads, Bryant has the least to do, but manages to be likeable even when his character is behaving stupidly or letting his ego get in the way of everything else. He makes a good foil for Payne, who portrays Mark as the sort of person who genuinely believes he’s a nice guy and spends his whole life being resentful of men like Seth. Naturally, this role offers the most opportunity to flex the acting muscles, as Mark finds his self-image repeatedly damaged by the others’ ideas about the killings, either because they’re inaccurate or because they hit close to home. It’s difficult to flesh out a character like this at the script level and this one isn’t entirely convincing, but he works well enough for narrative purposes

It’s Dillard who provides the focal point of the film, with Holly focused on the process at hand whilst the men vie for her attention, and not pulling any punches when it comes to summing up what she thinks of the crimes. Her down to earth attitude, together with the decision to show assaults on women only in speculatory form or by way of the trophies Mark keeps, enables the film to avoid sensationalism and keep its focus on the psychology of the killer. Forced to listen to her, he seems at times to be on the brink of recognising the wrongness of his actions, or at least of yielding to her stronger personality, but the very fact that she’s so sure of herself makes her a poor listener who continually misses significant clues in what he’s saying.

This is, at its core, a film about shattered illusions, but for most of its running time it’s surprisingly light. Efforts to learn more about the victims and make sense of the crimes are balanced by the interplay between the leads. It’s only as we enter the second half and Mark begins to prepare for what may be another killing that a sense of urgency creeps in. Simple props are used to good effect to create moments of horror, and the film does an effective job of illustrating the disconnection between the day to day world and Mark’s private one.

Sensible enough to stay within its means, this is a solid little film which has something to say about how its subject is routinely handled but which also knows how to entertain. It’s not the most attention-grabbing film you’ll see this year, but it does what it does well and that’s worthy of attention in any up-and-coming creative team.

Reviewed on: 02 Sep 2021
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Killer Concept packshot
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.

Director: Casey Dillard

Writer: Glenn Payne

Starring: Cody Bishop, Coley Bryant, Casey Dillard, Caleb Hall, Georgia Jeffreys

Year: 2021

Runtime: 81 minutes

Country: US


Frightfest 2021

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