Frightfest is no stranger when it comes to films revolving around a film crew: the fantastic Found Footage 3D was hugely successful in 2016, which focused on a film crew that are haunted by their own creation. But Killer Concept has a different twist. Killer Concept is directed by Glenn Payne (Driven) and stars himself, as well as Driven‘s Coley Bryant and Casey Dillard as a film crew who are planning their next horror film inspired by the recent killings within their town. However, one of the crew members is the actual killer!
I am a fan of horror films that like to merge reality with fiction within the film’s world, like this and One Cut of the Dead. Before the film was broadcast online during the festival, director/star Glenn Payne filmed an introduction and, during the clip, he explained that the film was made for under $1000 and the dialogue was improvised a lot, with only a base of a script. With these details considered, Killer Concept deserves to be placed next to Found Footage 3D because it’s fantastic.
The writing and acting compliment each other perfectly: Because all three have worked together before on Glenn Payne’s 2019 film Driven, the three actors have wonderful chemistry onscreen and easily bounce off each other, thus bringing out fantastic and enjoyable performances. Each character has a distinct personality and different ways that they want to approach the screenplay. Holly (Casey Dillard) has done a bit too much research on the serial killer and wants to make sure the film carries an accurate and respective portrayal of the murders, Mark (Glenn Payne) is quiet and burnt out creatively, so struggles to come up with any ideas while Seth (Coley Bryant) is overly enthusiastic and wants to make something that ‘the people want to see’…which is a gorefest to the point where it could be seen as offensive. Because of their personalities, the characters all become suspects immediately and, even when the film starts to reveal who the real killer is, it doesn’t feel confirmed because of the type of film that they’re making and the way in which they go through the planning process. While this may sound like a negative, it definitely isn’t and is actually one of the film’s strengths in creating a something of a mysterious whodunnit.
And it’s not just the characters’ personalities that make them suspicious, but also their dialogue and actions. Because of the type of screenplay they’re making, what they’re saying can carry a double meaning. As previously mentioned, Holly knows a little too much about the killer, while Seth just wants a gory slasher and even says at the start of the film that he’s already getting complaints about the project. But scenes where they’re carrying out further research on the murder cases could also be seen in the wrong light. They all approach the filmmaking process differently, making them all suspects, and I found myself second-guessing each character for the majority of the film. In addition to this, what they’re saying further uncovers who the true killer is but it’s unbeknown to them; the deeper they dig to make the film accurate, the more they’re unknowingly uncovering the killer. This particular progression was very enjoyable to watch because, by this point, the killer has been revealed to the audience and it’s just a case of waiting for the other characters to find out. All of these aspects make Killer Concept an extremely enjoyable experience.
Another aspect that deserves to be singled out is the use of cinematography. During the crew’s meetings, they’ll occasionally try to visualise a particular scene for the other two characters, which is then shown to the audience. During these fantasy sequences, the scene could be from a stereotypical slasher film, but the shots are handheld and look quite rough in terms of camera movement. But the shots otherwise are static and more cinematic. It’s a small detail but is a great way to differentiate between the main plot and what a character is imagining for the film. If there is any critique to pull from Killer Concept, it’s that the killer is revealed way too early. However, as previously mentioned, you’ll find yourself second-guessing even that reveal because of the context of the plot and the characters’ overall personalities.
Killer Concept is a unique and enjoyable film that has fun with its premise. The acting and writing are fantastic, and compliment each other really well, executing the mystery of the plot beautifully. And, even with its low budget, it looks wonderful and uses different styles of cinematography to differentiate between reality and fiction. The killer’s identity is revealed too early, but the context of the plot means that, even then, what is happening onscreen can’t be completely trusted. I hope this gets a wider release at some point, because Killer Concept deserves to be seen and remembered.