“Casting Kill” is a fun murder movie anchored by a strong lead that relies on Hitchcockian suspense instead of excessive blood and gore.
Any person who has auditioned for something, whether it be for a play or film, knows how terrifying the experience can be. It’s an unnerving feeling knowing that the person before you holds the key to your artistic and or financial future, and it is amplified when those auditioning depend on success and will do anything to have it.
Casting Kill perfectly exemplifies this feeling in a fun horror flick led by Rob Laird, who plays Arthur Capstone, our Casting Killer.
The plot is simple enough; our cast manager is looking for leading roles. As his actors file into his studio, he tells them to leave any bags or coats on the table, where he can later pilfer through and rob them before excusing them with the promise of a potential callback. Although nothing more than a petty criminal, Arthur holds within him a darkness created by some maternal trauma. He is enslaved by his appetite for dark-haired women.
Domenic (Jack Forsyth-Noble) and Ruby (Rachel Chima) get caught up in the midst of the scam when they realize that they themselves have been robbed. They are saved in the nick of time by Xander (Ian Renshaw), the creator of this operation, which we learn to be an “Identity Theft” scam among actors.
By far, the strongest element of Casting Kill was Arthur Capstone himself.
Behind the man’s undeniable charisma was a special kind of coldness and maybe even a hint of animalistic insanity that I myself have not seen since Patrick Bateman.
As the movie progresses, we get tiny glimpses into his frenzied mind, seeing that he dresses in woman’s clothes late at night for solo performances to his imagined audiences, and he has a disgusting habit of sucking on severed toes that he keeps in the refrigerator.
Xander’s character was another high point in the film for me. Although he had very minimal screen time, he gave off a certain gravitas reminiscent of the crime bosses from old gangster movies. Directly opposite of Capstone, he is all about business and seems to utterly despise the flamboyant nature and lack of control his employee exudes.
Xander is a criminal but not a murderer. The few minutes on the screen gave the character an aura of mystery about him, which perfectly exemplifies a puppet master.
Blood was lacking, and I believed it to be for the best.
Instead of relying on cheap gimmicks to get a reaction, Casting Kill succeeds by being genuinely creepy.
After strangling a woman, Arthur moves her onto the couch, where they watch a show before he gives in to his urge to examine her feet. The entire scene made me cringe, and I loved it.
A close-quartered set gave it a claustrophobic feeling without making the world feel shallow.
I enjoyed this movie, and I was enthralled by the performances of the actors and actresses, but I was pulled from complete immersion by a few bumps in the plot.
The first problem I had was with the character Lee (Michael Christopher Collins), who serves as a handyman, crime scene cleanup technician, body disposer, property manager, and personal assistant of Arthur. For an Egor-type character, Lee’s motivations were confusing, to say the least. In one scene, we see him chopping up and hauling out a woman, but in the next, we see him giving our two protagonists access to the murder scene to look for stolen possessions.
The majority of the problems I had, however, were with our characters, Domenic and Ruby. Their initial motivations were strange, and the film suffers from character inconsistency. Some of it is explained away with a modicum of plausibility, but much of it feels frustrating.
With that said, the writing issues I had did not do much to detract from my enjoyment of the film.
For a film that was shot in only six days, it’s quite an impressive feat, given what director James Smith (working from a script by Caroline Spence) was able to accomplish. As a whole, Casting Kill definitely managed to do more with less.
If you’re looking for a refreshing change of pace from modern horror movies, I recommend giving this one a go.