The desire to succeed (professionally, financially, or otherwise) can breed a uniquely terrifying kind of monster...
...We all want to succeed in some aspect of our lives, but the drive to achieve our goals can cause us to forget how the choices we make impact those around us. Even worse, many aspiring enterprisers don’t care about the far-reaching effects of their actions so long as they get ahead. In cultures that put the onus on individuals to build themselves up, it’s easy to fall into this trap of putting personal success ahead of everything else in life.
One of the offerings playing at Panic Fest serves as a warning of the danger that comes with focusing on personal advancement above all else. Keeping Company—directed by Josh Wallace and written by Wallace and Devin Das—is a satirical horror comedy about two insurance salesman, Sonny (Devin Das) and Noah (Ahmed Bharoocha), whose persistence to get the sale gets them into trouble. As a team, the two are at the top of the salesboard in their office. Despite that, Sonny’s overbearing father Mr. Reddy (Bernard White) refuses to praise his son for his achievements, instead berating him for being happy with his “five-figure salary” at his sales job.
When Paula (Gillian Vigman), the greedy and corrupt CEO of Caste Insurance, offers Sonny a promotion to VP of Sales on the condition that he can double his sales numbers for the month, Sonny becomes determined to prove his worth. Sonny and Noah pound the pavement, knocking on door after door in hopes of achieving their goal, but find little success. After several failed attempts to find new customers, the two get into a fender bender with Lucas (Jacob Grodnik), who drives off after revealing he doesn’t have car insurance. Seeing a way to make the best out of a bad situation, Sonny and Noah follow Lucas to his house and offer to forego calling the police if he’ll listen to their spiel about their insurance plans. The two quickly find out they’ve walked into the wrong house when Lucas traps them in the basement for his grandma (Suzanne Savoy).
At its core, Keeping Company is a biting satire of our single-minded desire to succeed at any cost while looking down on those who have been doing everything they can to get by, and the film portrays how this ideology is perpetuated by those seeking to gain or remain in power. Like his boss Paula, who pushes her workers to do better so she can take advantage of the profits they bring in to buy sweet toys like yachts, Sonny’s only goal is to advance in his career, become more powerful, and make more money.
Sonny drags Noah along for the ride, even though Noah is satisfied by what they’ve accomplished so far, has no reason to work any harder than he already has, and just wants to get home to his pregnant fiancé. Sonny does all this while knowing that the insurance company is taking advantage of their customers, using fear tactics and hypotheticals to get them to purchase expensive premiums, and working to avoid paying out insurance claims whenever possible.
But the insurance company and its workforce aren’t the only evils. Lucas, at the behest of Grandma, kidnaps homeless people and drug addicts from the streets, keeping them in their basement to fatten them up and slaughter them for their meat. Grandma, who’s raised Lucas since he was a child and kept him away from the outside world, has him convinced that they are bettering society by getting rid of the undesirables, mirroring our reality in which the upper class takes part in pushing policies that hurt the most vulnerable people, all while claiming to be doing good.
Despite the satire present in the film, Keeping Company never feels like it’s preaching. Instead, it takes a lighter approach at getting its message across, working it into the script in more subtle (although sometimes obvious) ways. Its script has a lot going on, with several concurrent stories and subplots that are expertly connected and weaved together to create a complete whole. Fans who prefer straight horror may be a bit disappointed, as the comedy of Keeping Company is in the foreground, even during the more horror-oriented moments, but the story and its expert construction should satisfy even the most stringent fans.
Although it features an extremely well-crafted script, the fantastic performances all around are what really elevate Keeping Company. Devin Das fully embodies the witty and shrewd Sonny in a way that is believable without being over the top, and it’s his delivery that makes much of the comedy work. Likewise, Ahmed Bharoocha is the perfect choice for the ridiculously sweet and goofy Noah. To me though, the real star of the show is Jacob Grodnik’s Lucas. Grodnik’s muted performance creates an aura of awkwardness that we might imagine a sociopathic, serial-killing kidnapper would have, complete with blank face and tics that seem all too natural on Grodnik. The three have a strange chemistry in Keeping Company that gives it both a unique charm and a quiet atmosphere that reminds us of the horrors of our world.
If you’re a fan of skillfully crafted satirical stories, love horror comedies, or are just in the mood for something different, Keeping Company is not to be missed.
By Tim Beirne
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