Keeping Company [Grimmfest Review]: Death[s] of a Salesmen
In the harsh world of business you can either be a shark or a worker bee. Capitalism makes it clear that the most important thing is to climb up the corporate ladder and face kick anyone in your way straight off of it to secure your place in the ‘comfortable life’. At the insurance company, Caste Insurance, that our two protagonists work at in Keeping Company, this competitive and aggressive behaviour is not only expected but highly encouraged. It’s dog eat dog, if the dogs are door to door salesmen in red blazers. It’s this need to prove himself that lands Sonny (Devin Das), and his poor work partner Noah (Ahmed Bharoocha), in a fight for their lives against a disturbing potential customer in this dark Horror Comedy.
There’s a lot going on in Keeping Company, a film that seems to be balancing three different narratives that weave and shuffle around each other until colliding head on in the climax. We begin as many Horrors do, down a dark alley at night. A car pulls to a stop beside a shadowed man and as he approaches to sell his wares he is kidnapped and driven back to a pleasant and expensive looking neighbourhood. The driver of this car is Lucas (Jacob Grodnik), a Norman Bates type in a button up cardigan and with an overbearing Grandma (Suzanne Savoy) at home whose rules he must adhere to.
Our next introduction is to the world of politics. District Attorney, Glenn Garry (William Russ), is applying for re-election with his campaign to ‘sweep up the streets’ and rid the city of its drug dealing problem, an issue close to his heart after the loss of his daughter. It’s clear that his name is a nod towards the play, and classic film adaptation, Glengarry Glen Ross which ties in to the films theme of cutthroat sales and rampant capitalism. Keeping Company doesn’t just wear it’s themes on its sleeve, it screams them from a megaphone, playing up every stereotype we know of the corporate and political worlds with hilarious and scathing results.
A knock on the door presents us with our two leads of the film, Sonny and Noah. Sonny is a ‘hard-sell’ in a red blazer and will do whatever it takes to make the sale. He is ruthless and is heavily motivated by his consistently disappointed fathers barbs and the false promises of a VP position from his brilliantly sociopathic boss Paula (Gillian Vigman). His co-worker, as Sonny rudely reminds him everytime he dares to say friend, Noah is a kind-hearted and warm man with a pregnant fiance at home and an infectious level of optimism with him at all times. Their sales technique is set up to greatly display these oppositions. While Noah disappears unknowingly to make a cup of tea for his welcoming customers Sonny pulls out the hard stops and plays on their fears of death and loss to get them to sign up to the ‘platinum package’. It’s this odd couple dynamic that keeps the humour going through this dark film.
“The world of consumerism and profits over ethics is lampooned, and the greed of those at the top has a light held to it, even if, like many Horror monsters, it isn’t fully dead at the end of the film.”
Whilst leaving the house of an unwilling customer Noah and Sonny end up in a fender bender with a very nervous Lucas whose boot is full of everything on the ‘Guide to Being a Serial Killer’ shopping list. When they ask for his insurance details he tells them he doesn’t have any and the audience can almost see the cartoon dollar signs in Sonny’s eyes light up as he follows Lucas home to make him a deal. Sonny’s arrogance in believing he has the upper hand leads the pair into the basement of the house and this is where they end up chained and stuck to be a part of Lucas and his Grandma’s maintained order.
As Sonny plots how to escape, Noah makes the supreme nice guy move and begins to win over Lucas with the ultimate sleepover trick, a blanket fort. They discuss their sombre upbringings, Lucas’ drug addicted mother killed herself once he was born, a story his Grandma seems to love telling him over and over again. Noah was orphaned when he was abandoned by his teenage parents making him determined to be a good father to his unborn child. They both know loss and are each burdened with less than perfect influences in their lives in the form of Sonny and Grandma. We get to explore some heart with these two before the chaos ensues and things start to get nasty and oh so bloody.
Seedy business practices abound in this satirical comedic Horror. Sonny’s father, Mr Reddy (Bernard White), buys a cheap product to peddle for a profit at his restaurant Faithful Cow, and is desperate to get a payout on his son’s life insurance policy to keep the place afloat, showing no grief or pain at this loss. Unfortunately for him Caste is not an honest business and policies are used as profit so there’s really no money to be paid out, not unless Paula wants to sell her boat or private jet that is, which she certainly doesn’t. The world of consumerism and profits over ethics is lampooned, and the greed of those at the top has a light held to it, even if, like many Horror monsters, it isn’t fully dead at the end of the film.
The performances are excellent across the board, each character is heightened and played with a tongue firmly in their cheek to great comedic effect. The production design is drenched in red, seeding the sinister underworlds of the film and the violence and splatter that hits in hard in the third act. Every infomercial inserted has a cynical and sarcastic tone with just enough realism underneath them to be believable in a world where everything is a sale and everyone is a customer. For their feature film debut director Josh Wallace and writer Devin Das do not hold back on their message. In a consumerist world where only the fittest, smartest and most ruthless survive, Keeping Company fights its way to the top and leaves me wanting to buy more.