I Am Not a Serial Killer Review
Every town has it’s monsters
John has a lot to worry about: school, bullies, girls, oh, and making sure he keeps his murderous tendencies in check.When a disembowelled body is discovered in the small midwestern town of Clayton all the residents are rightfully disturbed and worried. That is, all except for one, a teenage boy named John. Life for John (Max Records) is far from normal for a sixteen year old boy. With an existing fascination with serial killers John gets to indulge his macabre interests by helping his mother and aunt with the family’s funeral business by assisting in embalming the recently deceased.In addition to his unusual home life John believes he has the capability of eventually turning into one of the serial killers he obsesses over. So he lives by a strict set of rules to prevent his sinister side coming out. This seems to work reasonably well for John but when he realises that there might be a serial killer in his midst, John’s battle with his darker side is put to the test as he tries to discover the identity of the person responsible for these terrible deaths.
I Am Not a Serial Killer is based on the award winning novel by Dan Wells and is brought to life by director Billy O’Brien. Shot on 16mm and on location in the town of Virginia, North Minnesota I Am Not A Serial Killer has that gritty nostalgic feel of an old horror movie - similar to the recent horror films of Ti West - resulting in a beautifully retro feel with elements of Six Feet Under and Stranger Things. With amazing cinematography by Robbie Ryan, the small town of Clayton is shown as a playground for the killer at large with beautiful tracking shots passing through the streets and an almost excessive use of steam giving the film a mysterious sense of something about to boil over.
There are a couple of great sequences where John’s P.O.V. is in extreme focus with the background sound muted and the sound of his action intensified giving insight into his potentially murderous inclinations. Organ music is used throughout which keeps the theme of good vs. evil running and at times sounding like something from a satanic ritual. Adrian Johnston composed the score and has created a perfectly haunting and electrifying soundtrack to fit the menacing and eerie imagery on screen. Christopher Hyde and O’Brien wrote the film, adapting it from the novel and have struck the perfect balance of dark comedy and horror in this film. It’s funny in the same way as Donnie Darko and Dexter are funny, putting humour into everyday, ordinary action and reaction - the Christmas gift exchange is a great example.
This is one of those rare little films where everything fits together seamlessly
Record’s performance is excellent, bringing a lack of emotion and empathy whilst conveying a serious intensity throughout as John, trying to appear like any other ‘normal’ teenager whilst keeping his demons at bay. Not sure of his place within his family or at school John tries hard to keep from living up to his name, John Wayne Cleaver - a suggestion that murderous intent is his destiny. It’s during his therapy sessions with Dr. Neblin (Karl Geary) that we learn a bit more about John’s inner thoughts and see the worry it causes his mother, April (Laura Fraser) but even these moments have a light heartedness making the characters hugely likeable. John has a tense and somewhat strained relationship with his family but this is contrasted by his willingness to help an elderly neighbour, Bill Crowley (Christopher Lloyd), during the cold harsh winter. Many of the extras used were found locally, giving a sense of authenticity and realism to the film.
I Am Not A Serial Killer is a great little film that took four years to be realised and is definitely worth the wait. O’Brien and his team have created a film that slowly builds momentum and balances humour within a dark thriller perfectly. With a supernatural element thrown in to the mix it’s not your ordinary thriller and it amazingly makes use of actual physical puppets instead of CG imagery. Producer Nick Ryan used his VFX abilities to create the wonderful finale which fits within the world of the film perfectly and, for me, was the icing on the blood-stained cake.
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