Director: Billy O’Brien
Starring: Max Records, Laura Fraser and Christopher Lloyd
Release Date: Dec 9
There’s no denying it: there is a fascinating aspect to the minds of serial killers. You can’t help but be invested in their stories, the lives they’ve lived and what it is that makes them the way they are.
Did they have a strange and traumatic childhood?
Or are they just plainly psychopaths who find the thoughts of killing to be an electric thrill?!
Often, it is portrayed as an irrational need rather than desire. If they can’t kill, then how can they live? And then, of course, why kill specific people?
What does the act of killing mean to them and their overall lives?
These are the questions constantly swirling through the mind of John Wayne Cleaver (Max Records, who has changed a lot from his first role in Where the Wild Things Are).
A clinically diagnosed sociopath, he lives above a mortuary run by his mother. He fears that he is ‘fated’ to become a serial killer, and so he lives by a set of behavioural rules, designed to keep his homicidal impulses in check.
He is consistently intrigued by serial killers and their methods; he studies them, writes papers about them in school and is criticised by his peers for not being ‘normal’. His principal, in an attempt at empathy, explains that it is ‘normal’ to be drawn to death and murder. But it is a slippery slope to walk down and easy to fall into the abyss of abnormality.
John isn’t normal, but then again, what is?
John’s world takes a turn when a series of deaths begin to occur in his hometown. The suggestion of a serial killer parks itself in his mind, putting his set of normality rules to the test.
To counteract this, he takes it upon himself to try and find out who the killer may be. While searching the bodies received in the mortuary, he notices distinct patterns with each murder victim. His morbid curiosities allow him to establish a connection with the would-be killer, all the while trying to keep himself in check and not let his urges takeover.
Despite his awkwardness, John is generally known amongst the community, particularly with his elders. With only one friend at school, he doesn’t associate with people his own age, as is plainly evident during the Halloween dance. Instead, most interactions are with his family and therapist, both of whom attempt to come to terms with his state of mind and help him deal with his dark side.
Then, of course, there is his old neighbour Crowley, played wonderfully by Christopher Lloyd, and where the meat of the film really is. When we first meet Crowley, it is plain to see they have a great bond. While the film as a whole is quite dark, this is an unexpected source of some great light-hearted moments.
Directed by Irish director Billy O’Brien and based on the cult novel of the same name, I Am Not a Serial Killer boasts a great performance from Max Records, reminding us what was so great about Where The Wild Things Are. Admittedly, the other performers are somewhat lacking, and there are certainly lulls in the story that audiences might find dull.
However, it is redeemed by a killer opening credits sequence, followed by a very late 70’s/early 80’s vibe that benefits the entire film and, not least of all, Christopher Lloyd. A standout performance, his best in years, Lloyd brings poignancy to an old man who may or may not be a serial killer, and shares terrific chemistry with Records himself.
With that résumé, I Am Not a Serial Killer is a film with serious potential for cult status.
Written by Graeme Redmond