Directed by Billy O’Brien
Written by Billy O’Brien & Christopher Hyde
Starring Max Records, Laura Fraser, Karl Geary and Christopher Lloyd
What controls the impulses that jet through our cranial grey matter? Is it predetermined for an individual to act or feel a certain way? What if these impulses drive us to something.. dark and murderous? These are the questions that this slick genre-blending film propose. They may not be fully answered but the mind of a sociopathic young man is explored. If one is resisting the urge to kill, what would they do when their confronted with the very monster that they’re trying to suppress?
I am not a Serial Killer (clunky title, based on a book) is a fascinating and well made little thriller. I love how it deftly balances a multitude of genres. Coming-of-age drama, character study, slasher and even sci-fi are all touched upon (to go too far into the latter genre would reveal a bizarre twist). Our main character, John Wayne Cleaver (quite the serial killer friendly moniker, portrayed by Max Records whom you might remember as young Max from the film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are) is a great character. He and his mental illness are both portrayed with sensitivity and care reflecting him as a young man who is doing his very best to resist becoming the monster he feels he is fated to be. The legendary Christopher Lloyd still proves he has gas in the tank as the antagonist Crowley, segueing between kindly next door neighbor and a man with a dark secret. It’s a delight to see an old pro trying something new and watching him and Records interact are amongst the highlights of the film.
Another strong aspect is the more delicate way that the film is shot. Our director and cinematographer make the most of the snowy-small-midwest-town feel that encompasses the film. It provides just the right touch of quaintness that the killings occurring feel like a real tragedy. Said kills are often filmed from a distance or swiftly enough that we (along with our young lead) are left to wonder if we really witness what just happened… or if it was all a trick of the mind?
On to the twist; it may just be the film’s low point. At no point in the film’s marketing or trailer is the big reveal even hinted upon which makes it incredibly jarring for those ho have not read the novel (yours truly, included). I feel it hurts the film a little as it takes a delicate subject matter and obliterates all subtlety with the force of a sledgehammer. It results in a sweet, almost romantic scene near the end which I enjoyed but it still feels out of place.
Overall, I really enjoyed this film. It’s a different take on the serial killer drama, one that rings forth with respect and sensitivity (at least until the final third). It’s almost dreamlike in its soft, snow filtered setting and delicate dance of cat-and-mouse between our two leads. Some of the intention is lost in the twist but at least its represented by some unique effects.
It’s a strong drama with just the right amount of gore and violence and good acting between two very unexpected performers. Now streaming on Netflix (June 2017) and well worth a watch!
4/5 Puddles of Oily Black Substance
Splatter Factor: 2.5/5 **** Most of the gore in this film is black as opposed to the vibrant claret we’re used to. This in fact, plays a strong focal point in the story’s twist. Outside of our onyx goo, the kills are unique in that some of them are shown from a distance, albeit without cutting away. We see entrails and innards and a nasty scene of a hand being shoved down a throat! But like much of the film itself, all is not as it seems… ****
The Collective speaks: We have journeyed into many minds in our eons of existence and have glimpsed some of the blackest hearts imaginable. That said, we have seen that not all individuals are privy to the base, primal bloodlust that courses through their souls. Some are strong enough to resist it… but are they strong enough to resist us? We also ponder the effect on the psyche of being a child actor, as suggested by the amount of children who portray socio and psychopaths as they mature. Fascinating….