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I am not a Serial Killer - The Riles Review
I thought that with such a suggestive title and one picture I saw of Christopher Lloyd and Max Records looking like quality suspects, I knew to some degree what I was in for. But I am not a Serial Killer completely subverted my expectations and posed a lot of burning questions in its finale. One of those questions was “what the fuck happened?”, but half the reason the movie worked so well is because of how little it tells you. If you like to know everything you’ll be very displeased, because by the end of this film you know even less than when you started.
Teenager John Cleaver isn’t a serial killer, but he is a diagnosed sociopath who has to control violent tendencies. When a string of serial killings catches his attention and that of the town, John gets swept up in a mystery that tickles a little too much of his dark interests.
Perhaps if I’d seen a trailer for the film, I’d have not been as impressed or surprised by the twisting story. I never saw the trailer for Cabin in the Woods, and apparently that saved my entire experience. The film has a slightly grainy, grindhouse style to it that is incredibly authentic. The intimacy of scenes and locations, as well as the almost clinical lighting give it a real cool, dense atmosphere. The film balances the dark humour and the intensity of the plot really well. There’s never jarring moments where the film changes thematically, it’s all one blended story that in the end, through all the horror and shock, has a lot of heart and is kind of sweet. The moody murder tones are amplified by the small town setting, but even as the story gets deeper and even more twisted, there’s still sunshine underneath.
The finale of the film, while beginning in a sort of rushed manner, became quite powerful and connected every thread that was pulled during the rest of the film. Everything from the characters and the underlying mythos came together and turned the whole film into a philosophical venture. The film says something about mental health and recovery and did so with such ease, especially considering the subject matter it was using to do so. But by the end, I still didn’t have any idea what truly happened. I wasn’t left dissatisfied, but the film faded out with more of a metaphor than an explanation. I understand if people hate that, but like Cabin in the Woods, I found that WTF feeling by the end was more euphoric than any explanation could’ve been.
The characters are by far the strongest part of the film. Max Records made for an angsty teenager who you don’t hate. He turns the underlying sociopathy and small town loneliness into this believable, dry-humoured and emotionally absent kid. Even as he tends to fetishize mass murder, he’s a likeable dude, and by the end of his character arc you’re only more in love with him by that point.
Christopher Lloyd is incredibly understated and fantastic as John Cleaver’s old neighbour. His vulnerability is so real, and he makes such a genuine performance out of the role it’s a shame he hasn’t done something so out of the box before.
The supporting cast are all quite strong as well. Laura Fraser is great as John’s slightly absent mother, and Karl Geary is probably one of the most subtly layered characters out of them all as John’s therapist, guiding John through his sociopathy. There are other great supporting characters, but they hide behind the standouts.
Wrapping it up...
With less straight-up terror than some people might prefer, I am not a Serial Killer is an open-ended, poetic style of story-telling. It’s a slowburn, and definitely not a crap-in-your-pants sort of horror film, but is still a rewarding and deeply enjoyable film.
I am not a Serial Killer - 9/10