I Am Not A Serial Killer Blu-ray Review
What immortal hand or eye dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
I Am Not a Serial Killer is a quirky indie mystery that spins its $1.45 million budget and intriguing premise into a compelling little gem of a movie.Diagnosed with sociopathic tendencies, teenage outcast John Wayne Cleaver struggles to interact with others, whether at school or at home, and is strangely drawn to a spate of violent deaths that lead to a number of dead bodies turning up at the funeral home where he works part-time. As bodies drop like flies and the town go wild over the notion of a serial killer in their midst, John conducts his own private investigations, noticing a pattern of missing organs and body parts in the killings, and connecting it with some rather odd behaviour from his seemingly harmless, and eminently helpless, elderly neighbour Mr Crowley.Blending We Need to Talk About Kevin with The Babadook, by way of Donnie Darko, with maybe even a bit of Under the Skin thrown in for good measure, I Am Not a Serial Killer benefits from a very interesting premise, and from two compelling primary performances. Max Records is great in the lead role, whilst his Rear Window-esque obsession with his neighbour is made all the more intriguing by a superb performance from Christopher Lloyd, like you've never seen him before. Ultimately its journey is arguably greater than its destination, but it is still an impressive no-budget sophomore effort from horror director Billy O'Brien.
Picture QualityI Am Not a Serial Killer hits UK shores with a suitably gritty, grimy presentation which, whilst far from anything even approaching demo material, is arguably perfectly suited to the material. Shot in 16mm, the image is already heavily grainy and textured, even before we consider the framing choices - with the filmmakers clearly considering a variety of different styles before settling on the rather unconventional 1.66:1 widescreen look, which, on the one hand, works well to suit the period crime documentary feel (it looks like it was shot in the 70s), and cover up the extremely limited effects but, on the other, only further highlights the flaws in the distinctly rough material.
This is one ugly looking video presentation
Colours remain bold and vibrant within the murky environment, with strong black levels affording reasonable darker sequences, although, again, the 16mm filmmaking choice isn't conducive towards providing particularly impressive shadow detail (it doesn't get much worse than the final reel, where the terrible effects and shockingly bad blacks really come out in all their non-glory). Detail also, in general, appears distinctly limited by the format, facial observations at anything more than about mid-range distance often blur into a heavy swathe of thick filmic grain (noise), although there are some other shots - normally those bathed in a decent amount of daylight - which reveal plenty of detail. Fans of the 16mm style will obviously lap it up, and there's no denying that it certainly fits with the tone/subject of the piece, but it's one ugly looking video presentation in technical terms.
Sound QualityThe audio is also a little limited
The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also a little limited, with the dialogue-dominated track sometimes even struggling with its most significant component. Going for a suitably grungy, backrooms-centric affair, that dips behind the curtain into the sordid underbelly of this neighbourhood, there is a certain amount of atmospheric ambiance afforded to the piece, but limited sound design - and the inherent limitations of the material on offer - leave this a similarly distinctly unexceptional effort, and one whose primary aspect, the dialogue, whilst promoted across the front and centre channels, does not necessarily maintain the utmost clarity and coherence throughout. Even the suitably organ-dominated score struggles at its peak ends. Nevertheless, more tense moments do echo out across the array, and nominal atmospherics work adeptly, leaving this a suitably faithful presentation of, again, distinctly limited material.
ExtrasThere are only a few extras on offer, but they are all quite interesting, with Mood Cut looking at a very brief 4-minute test Short version of the movie, whilst Phone Box Comparison offers a look at different versions with different ages of the actor in the lead role; Lake Storyboarding looks behind this key scene; and Puppet Shoot and Toby Froud Monster Design looking at the creature/effects design. Nothing runs at more than 2-3 minutes in length, with only a smattering of 5 Deleted Scenes to round off the disc.
Blu-ray VerdictA fairly impressive no-budget sophomore horror film
Shot in 16mm, the film looks pretty poor, technically, but the style arguably suits the piece, and certainly camouflages - at least until the final act - the limited budget. However, with this in mind, the visual and aural limitations shouldn't put you off checking out this nice little mystery flick.
You can buy I Am Not a Serial Killer on Blu-ray here
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £9.99
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