Killer Concept (2021)

“Why is she naked?”
“Do you shower with clothes on?”
“I don’t. But Mary Rose was not found in her home and she was not nude when they discovered her body.”
“Look. Horror fans want certain things in their films.”
“Among other things.”

— Screenwriter and Producer bickering about the devilish details

We were first exposed to the joint resume of Tupelo, Mississippi-based writer and actor, producer and director Glenn Payne and writer and actress Casey Dillard with their effective, micro-budgeted horror-thriller, Driven (2020). That film went on to win three awards for “Best Feature” at the Jackson Crossroads, Magnolia Independent, and Tupulo Film festivals, along with actor Richard Speight Jr. (CW’s Supernatural) winning the “Best Actor” award at the Nashville Film Festival.

When we learned the horror-comedy Killer Concept, the latest film from Glenn Payne’s Dead Leaf Productions, was newly available for Tubi streaming, we wanted to watch the film, as his previous work, Driven, was impressive. If you haven’t yet seen Driven, do: think Michael Mann’s Collateral starring Tom Cruise — only with demon’s showing up. Trust us, you’ll enjoy the stream. Since then, we’ve also watched Glenn’s early film, Earthrise (2014), an impressive, against-the-budget science fiction piece about three explorers returning home from Mars, for the first time. If you read our reviews for Anton Doiron’s Space Trucker Bruce (2014), Robert Goodrich’s Ares 11, and Monty Light’s Space (2020), you know that when a filmmaker effectively executes the off-Earth/space-centric genre, we’ll champion that film. Add Earthrise to that list.

The usual modus operandi in producing a film about an infamous serial killer: wait for the killer to be caught. Just not in this Hitchcockian cocktail with a twist of wryly lime.

Our auteur, Mark (Glenn Payne), is a cinematographer working with Seth, an aspiring producer (fellow local Mississippi actor Coley Bryant of the 2017 beauty queen-boxing comedy, Fighting Belle) who, like most producers, throws integrity to the wind when it comes to making a hit movie. Mark finds himself talked into a project by Seth and his writer, Holly (Casey Dillard, the lead in Driven), to make a movie about a still-at-large, local serial killer. Hey, they might even solve the crime as they’re making the movie, which will be a great promotional gimmick.

True to form, Seth, again, like most producers, could care less about that pesky “character development” and “plot” nonsense that writers like Holly pride themselves on. He doesn’t want a serious “art” piece about the psyche of what drives a man to kill women. “Get the Freud out of here, Holly!”: Seth wants an ’80s-styled “boobs and blades” job. Scream bloody murder and let slip the gallons of red Karo, says Seth. And fire up that fog machine.

As with Driven before it: Killer Concept, while on a tight budget, doesn’t look “cheap” in the least and comes off as a well-shot film: the camera moves with style and the lighting keeps the proceedings dark and thrilling against the script’s lighter delivery of its dark humor. Sure, it’s a horror-comedy, yes, but the concept isn’t a full-on yuk-yuk fest analogous to Scary Movie: it’s a lighter take on that film’s raison d’etre: Scream, a film that, itself, had its suspenseful moments as the narrative shifts screwed with your concepts as to what is and isn’t real.

I enjoyed the fine writing of Casey Dillard who, again, impressed with her Final Draft skills on Driven. In the frames of Killer Concept, she’s intelligently crafted a Droste effect-styled screenplay: she’s a screenwriter, writing a screenplay about a screenwriter, fed up with the clichés of screenwriting permeating today’s A24 and Blumhouse-driven horror industry. Dillard’s mise en abyme intelligence continues as our director, the somewhat introverted Mark, isn’t the creepy, weird, deformed, ugly serial killer that Seth wants him to be.

Oops. The bag just lost its cat.

I enjoyed the “reality” of Mark as penned by Dillard. You shiver at the thought of guys like Ted Bundy and Dennis Rader: no one saw it coming. And you don’t see it coming, here. Well, Seth and Holly don’t; but you do, now, since I slaughtered the burlapped feline.

Hey, it’s not my fault. You’re the one that reads reviews about movies, written by some “nice guy” hunkered down in a Pittsburgh basement that watched the movie, before you watch the movie. But you wouldn’t have watched the movie if I didn’t write about the movie to make you want to watch the movie. Or something like that.

Anyway, I gotta go. I need to put a few more strokes of paint on my self-portrait before my mom brings my lunch of raw goat livers a nice cup warm cocoa. But wait . . . my mom is dead and I am actually “mother” bring my own livers and cocoa. And “she” is writing a screenplay about “me,” I mean, me about her. . . .

Making its streaming debut earlier this year on Amazon, Killer Concept is now available as a free-with-ads stream on Tubi through Indie Rights Movies. You can learn more about Glenn Payne’s painting and film works at his official website and, again, at his official Facebook page for Dead Leaf Productions. And be sure to learn more about his previous film, Driven, with our review.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. In addition to writing film reviews for B&S About Movies, he publishes music journalism pieces, as well as short stories based on his screenplays, on Medium.

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