Frances Winston feels that the mixing of two genres does not quite work in the thriller/horror, I Am Not A Serial Killer
Directed by: Billy O’Brien – Starring: Max Records, Laura Fraser, Christopher Lloyd, Christina Baldwin
I Am Not A Serial Killer is based on the Dan Wells’ novel of the same name, which, interestingly, has received different classifications in different parts of the world. The first in his series of novels about John Wayne Cleaver, in some territories the book was deemed YA because of the teen protagonist, while others classified it as adult.
Whatever your thoughts on where it fits in the literary spectrum, this big-screen adaptation from Irish director, Billy O’Brien (who was behind the excellent Isolation) sees Max Records take on the role of the protagonist. (Max Records is possibly the BEST movie star name EVER by the way!) If you remember him as an adorable chubby-faced kid from Where The Wild Things Are, then you may get a bit of a shock, as, now 19, he is all gangly awkward teen – making him perfect for this role.
Cleaver’s mother runs the local undertakers, and he lives above it .This is probably not the best choice of abode for the troubled teen, who is a diagnosed sociopath who is convinced he is going to become a serial killer. He uses a series of techniques to insure that he never acts on his impulses. However, when a serial killer strikes in his small town, he develops an unhealthy fascination with them.
When he realises the killer is closer to home than he first thought, it starts to awaken urges in him, despite the fact that these murders are not all they seem.
Records gives a fantastic performance as the permanently on-edge John, and you will never have seen Christopher Lloyd quite like he is here. O’Brien builds the tension well initially, and (if you haven’t read the book) you will get a bit of a surprise when the killer is revealed. However, this mixes both the crime-thriller and supernatural/horror genre, and the two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. John Wayne’s story and struggle is complex enough, but when you add in otherworldly elements, the movie almost becomes cartoonist in parts.
That’s not to say that it’s not enjoyable to a point. There are plenty of twists and turns, and the game of cat-and-mouse between John and the killer is really engaging. Unfortunately, due to the introduction of the otherworldly stuff, I found myself wondering what I had just seen. I appreciate it’s an element of the books, but what reads well on the page doesn’t always transfer to the big-screen.
This is pretty solid, but the horror elements are somewhat silly, and feel really out of place. One of the most unusual films you will see before the year’s end, it is definitely worth a look as a curiosity piece. And, if nothing else, it will have you looking at your neighbours in a whole new light.
Just don’t expect to leave the cinema hugely satisfied, as it never quite delivers on its early promise.
In Cinemas Now!