24th Aug2019

Frightfest 2019: ‘Criminal Audition’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Noeleen Comiskey, Rich Keeble, Angela Peters, Rebecca Calienda, Blain Neale, Cameron Harris, Scott Samain, Luke Kaile, Jonathan Burteaux, Ben Scheck | Written by Samuel Gridley, Luke Kaile | Directed by Samuel Gridley

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An ex-lawyer and his crack team run an underworld service; they seek the most desperate and greedy to become fake criminals to take the fall for the rich and powerful elite’s felonies… In an undisclosed location, over one night, they will put three individuals through hell to find the perfect candidate for their latest assignment. But their world is turned upside down when they face lies, deceit, murder and a very dangerous new client auditioning for their biggest job yet.

Written by Luke Kaile, who also plays Ryan in the film, Criminal Audition began life as a one-act play in 2009, inspired by stories of doppelgangers going to prison instead of the true criminals in exchange for cash payouts. In 2014 Luke brought Samuel Gridley on board to direct and the film has been in development ever since… before finally debuting this year at Frightfest.

And speaking of debuts, this is a fantastic first feature, a black-comedy calling card if you will, for both Kaile and Gridley. Though of the two it’s Kaile that comes out on top.

The script he co-wrote is on-point, creating enough mystery and confusion to keep you watching; whilst his performance as Ryan, the anti-hero(?) of this story is superb. You feel for Ryan, you empathise with Ryan – even though he’s a part of this cadre of villains looking for the next patsy to frame for a crime. In fact, the further into the film we go the more Kaile’s script and performance reveals that Ryan is in fact one of us. NOT one of them. We’re told he was one of the previously chosen scapegoats… but when the film starts he’s one of those choosing. He’s essentially switched “sides” but no-one, no-one, can escape who they really are – and that becomes apparent with Ryan when the proverbial shit hits the fan. He also has some fantastic chemistry with Rebecca Calienda – making her feature debut – who’s performance is another clear standout in the film.

What truly marks Criminal Audition out from the crowd is the fact that this film is also another example of a very British take on the horror genre, taking very British concerns and using horror to explore them. In this case the film is a horror-tinged look at British society: the sheer desperation of the lower-classes to get somewhere in life, to make money, to try and claw their way out of their own situation and how the rich are taking advantage of that. Criminal Audition is a PERFECT reflection of the current state of Britain – the rich are getting richer and getting away with more shit by preying on the concerns and the worries of the poor.

My only qualm about the film? I couldn’t get the Rich Keeble’s Topcashback ads out of my head for entire time I was watching!

**** 4/5

Criminal Audition screened at Arrow Video Frightfest on Saturday August 24th 2019.

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