Indie Cinema Review – Casting Kill (2023)

Casting Kill is an intriguing indie crime drama with more than a hint of dark humour from Raya Films, and the 80 minute movie had its world premiere in the UK this January at Southend’s Horror-On-Sea film festival. Styled as an Alfred Hitchcock inspired thriller, there is certainly a Hitchcock-esq vibe created during the opening credits, with a score that could easily have been lifted from any of his big suspense filled movies from the fifties or sixties. And this firmly sets the tone for the mood the film wishes us to slip into for the viewing experience.

The premise for the movie is that deranged fraudster Arthur Capstone, played with an engaging comical menace in his first leading role by former professional Rugby player Rob Laird, has set himself up as a Hollywood casting director, and is spending a few days in London auditioning actors for an upcoming movie role. Whilst asking his actors to meditate during the audition, he is stealing money, bank cards, identity documents and whatever valuables he can lay his hands on from their bags, before siphoning off the ID cards to organised criminal Xander (Ian Renshaw).

However ripping off the unsuspecting and desperate to please actors isn’t enough for Capstone, who unknown to his puppet master is a demented psychopath with a lust for strangling women … and with an extremely repulsive fetish for feet. He uses his time during the process to pick off the occasional victim and indulge in his macabre fantasies, before he meets his match with Domenic (Jack Forsyth-Noble) and Ruby (Rachel Chima), two cocky young actors not willing to play along with his weird and eccentric requests during their auditions. And who team up to investigate Capstone after Ruby realises she has had cash and her credit cards stolen, with both sensing that all is not as it seems with the creepy movie executive.

The desired impact of Casting Kill lives and dies with the performance Rob Laird puts in as Arthur Capstone. He switches it sweetly from playing it straight to menacing psychopath with the twitch of a change in facial expression, while delivering the role with a consistent undertone of dark humour. There is somewhat of an Otto (played superbly by Kevin Kline) from A Fish Called Wanda (1988) about the way he performs his psychotic Yank in London act. And there is also a strong visual hint to that movie’s writer John Cleese, due to the well groomed moustache he sports on his face throughout. Particularly standing out during a fantasy sequence, in which Arthur delivers an intense monologue to an audience made up of his murdered victims.

The movie was shot in a six day period in central London during the winter of 2021, and presents visually with minimalistic sets and a feel which makes the most of its independent budget, with the ambience of what could also have been an effective stage play at times. Casting Kill seems aware of its limitations, using the impressive Hitchcockian score by Shaun Finnegan to build suspense in the absence of any significant camera trickery or use of F/X. While for example also choosing to use an off camera kill during a slasher sequence, with the shot focusing on the knife wielding antagonist.

Casting Kill which is written by Caroline Spence and directed by James Smith (Agent Kelly) clearly takes influence from the #MeToo movement, and provides a darkly satirical albeit extreme commentary on the misogyny and discrimination that has clearly been rife within the film industry. While also providing a synopsis of the life of struggling out of work actors, who are desperate to chase their dreams in an industry happy to chew them up and spit them back out again. Sure there are plot holes peppered throughout, the lack of any police prescence following up on the disappearance of murdered auditionees for example. However, if you hunt this film out and give yourself over to the modest run time while allowing yourself to unquestionably slip into the story, you’ll likely find yourself enjoying this particularly sordid tale of crime.

Words by Mark Bates

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