I Am Not A Serial Killer was a festival favourite last year playing the London, SXSW and Leeds film festivals amongst many others. It also ended up being a surprise critically rave as well and is destined for minor cult status for years to come. It’s based on the novel of the same name by Dan Wells.
The film is about a teenage boy John Wayne Cleaver (Max Records) who shows all the syndromes of becoming a future serial killer and has been diagnosed as a sociopath. He lives in a tiny small midwestern town so given his diagnosis it’s harder to keep a low profile so he is an outsider by default. There is soon a series of grisly murders in the town where their organs are taken out of the body and an oily substance is found. The murders may have some kind of supernatural element.
John works at the funeral home which he mother runs so he naturally gets a firsthand look at the victims. He is friends with his elderly neighbour Crowley (Christopher Lloyd) and the younger Max (Raymond Brandstorm) and they are the only friends he has in the town. He soon starts investigating the murders himself and he soon thinks his elderly Crowley might be involved somehow.
It’s a rip-roaring mixture of coming of age film along with elements of surrealistic horror. It changes genres rapidly and somewhat that’s where some of the film’s problems stem from. When I heard about the film I envisioned a film with a bigger scope and it’s very contained in this small town. The film’s big twist isn’t left a mystery long enough to really get wrapped and is pretty obvious from the get-go.
However Max Records who played the boy in Where the Wild Things Are is absolutely captivating at this misfit kid who trying and succeeding to control his violent impulses. Christopher Lloyd who has always be unsung as a character actor but will also have Dr. Brown as an albatross over his neck but he done so much more. This performance is no exception and it’s a really surprise turn from him.
The ’80s nostalgia is rampant like the oily substance in the film despite it being set in present day. It’s expertly shot on 16mm which for my money actually looks more “film-like” than modern films shot on 35mm. It seems like more independent films are turning to this beautifully textured format in recent years. The director Billy O’Brian wears his influence from the work of Joe Dante on his sleeve who always perfectly blended comedy and horror and would get impressive work from his young performers.
Overall I Am Not A Serial Killer really succeeds due to the performances of Records and Lloyd. It’s a nice addition to the trend of ’80s nostalgic comedy/horror/sci-fi projects like Netflix’s excellent Stranger Things. It doesn’t quite succeed to become a bona-fide cult classic like Donnie Darko (which may in fact be the last true cult classic) than some critics claimed. Billy O’Brien is certainly a director to look out for in the future, hopefully he doesn’t get hired by the studios to do some superhero film which is so often the case.
The Blu-Ray disc is sadly pretty barebones but does have the short film which they made to held raise funds for the film.