Canadian writer-director Cody Calahan has been building something of a reputation in horror circles for his playful, narratively sophisticated work in what seem like superficially pulpy films, such as Antisocial, Let Her Out and The Oak Room. His latest offering is pretty on-brand, with winking meta-jokes, such as having the central character Joel (Evan Marsh from Shazam!) be a journalist who writes about horror films. What’s more, when we first meet him, he’s pitching a story to a horror film producer (Gord Rand) about a serial killer who is a taxi driver, a joke that pays out satisfyingly much later. In less skilful hands, gags like this would be highly irritating, but Calahan and the cast get away with it thanks to fine comic timing and likable ensemble playing.
The main meat of the story doesn’t relate to horror movie journalism or taxis, but it does involve serial killers. While snooping on a guy (Ari Millen, a charming chameleon of an actor familiar to Orphan Black fans) who is dating his roommate, on whom he has a crush, Joel finds himself at a bar late one night where a silly string of happenstance forces him to take part in a self-help group for serial killers that’s meeting at the venue after hours. Joel is not a serial killer, but he has to play along and fake being one in order to avoid being murdered in grisly fashion by either vampish Carrie (Amber Goldfarb), psycho clown Fritz (the incomparable Julian Richings), cannibal Hideo (Sean Baek), thuggish Mike (Robert Maillet), or military man and group leader Zachary (David Koechner, Champ from Anchorman and one of comedy’s best character actors). Once the bloodletting starts, Calahan interleaves it with witty asides and the pacing picks up a lot, all combining to make this impish if flyweight entertainment.