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Overall Rating
4.71

Awesome85.71%
Worth A Look: 0%
Just Average: 14.29%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 0%

1 review, 1 rating


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I Am Not A Serial Killer
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by Jay Seaver

"But then, what would make me one?"
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2016 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: How to describe "I Am Not a Serial Killer", a film that often seems to have the wrong lurid title for the story is actually telling to an extent that it almost seems like misdirection? You almost have to double something together, saying is the familiar story of a kid who discovers something no adult will believe in his neighborhood filtered through the likes of "Let the Right One In", with just enough modern parental paranoia thrown in for good measure. And then, once those parts are put together, the title may not describe them or the whole, but it certainly speaks about the stitching.

People have fair reason to be concerned about John Cleaver (Max Records), of course; when the son of the local mortician (Laura Fraser) starts focusing every school report he's assigned on multiple murderers sure, get him a recurring appointment with therapist Grant Neblin (Karl Geary) and keep an eye on those "serial killer predictors". Despite those, he seems to be a pretty good kid, helping out with the morbid family business and helping the elderly couple across the street, Bill and Kay Crowley (Christopher Lloyd & Dee Noah) out whenever they need it. Nobody is connecting him with the bodies turning up around this snowy Minnesota town at an unusual rate. The thing is, when he finds out what's happening, he knows he'd be the last person any adult would believe, and even the other teenagers that like him think he's strange.

A number of themes dance around each other as the film goes on - that sometimes you may need a monster to fight a monster, that sometimes it may require a glimpse of true horror to fully commit to decency, that parents can get so swept into classifying and treating their teen's unusual behavior that they wind up reinforcing it. John is a kid with problems, enough that the last option is nearly off the table, but he still comes across as basically trustworthy most of the time. It's the moments in-between which demonstrate what a great job Max Records does with the character, exploring the border between being psychotic and just being a teenager - halting descriptions of how he thinks that initially sound like someone forced to over-explain his behavior are unsettling in action, and he's able to show a forbidden thrill of curiosity when poking at horrors. Records knows who John is, as does O'Brien, and do great work in making the character's ambiguity not just a matter of hiding the truth from the audience, but internalizing that his actions are a combination of genuine and pretending that even John seldom understands.

He plays against a number of people, but it's probably no surprise that Christopher Lloyd stands out from the crowd, though why may be. He's a rightfully beloved character actor, but one whose most famous performances are broad and usually funny, perfectly evolved to fit the a certain kind of niche. At first, it's surprisingly pleasant to watch him dial all that back a notch or three, just playing the neighbor in what is initially a more realistic sort of movie, giving Crowley little lived-in mannerisms and being adorably sweet with Dee Noah add his wife. As the film goes on, O'Brien does a fabulous job of revealing more of Crowley's background without getting close to telling everything, and Lloyd is able to use that to build a character of fascinating contradictions. The stretch where Crowley is terrified of what may happen next is pushed into slight exaggeration for rueful laughs, but also a brilliant job of capturing an old man scared by a changing world, even as Lloyd and O'Brien place it right next to him being intimidating as hell telling John that he doesn't know half of what he's dealing with.

These two aren't alone, of course - though the backdrop is a small town that feels kind of isolated, nobody's life seems to be entirely defined by how they relate to John. Laura Fraser is perfectly uncertain as the mother, and a few scenes showing an even more difficult relationship with John's sister go a long way toward making the family feel entirely built around one thing. Karl Geary does a great job of making the therapist an entertaining foil for John while not making him too obnoxiously quirky. As a whole, the cast and crew do well in creating the feeling of a small town - not so small that absolutely everything is connected but not so big that nothing is unfamiliar.

They seem to have been both fortunate in their timing when they filmed and good at making use of the environment - it's one thing to posit the film is taking place in a snowy spot that matches the mood; quite another to make it feel like time is passing and winter deepening. O'Brien and cinematographer Robbie Ryan (last seen helping Slow West look amazing) shoot on 16mm, a look that suits the film, giving it a handmade intimacy while capturing the slate grays of the environment. And while the film stays fairly grounded much of the time, there is something very powerfully gross about the inky goo found around the murders and the practical effects that show up when it's time to see monsters for what they are. The filmmakers do a fine enough job of building around what they have that it never seems like they're doing so.

Underneath it all, though, is the idea that being human and being a monster are fundamentally connected, and that the struggle is what makes people interesting and worth examining. That may not be an uncommon thought, but O'Brien and company handle it with unusual skill for a thriller aimed at young people, to the extent that giving someone like Lloyd what may be one of his best parts is something of a bonus.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=30139&reviewer=371
originally posted: 08/27/16 00:16:15
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 South by Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2016 South by Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Bruce Campbellā€™s Horror Film Festival For more in the 2016 Bruce Campbellā€™s Horror Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/13/16 Langano Interesting little flick. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  26-Aug-2016
  DVD: 13-Dec-2016

UK
  N/A

Australia
  26-Aug-2016


Directed by
  Billy O'Brien

Written by
  Billy O'Brien
  Chris Hyde

Cast
  Max Records
  Christopher Lloyd
  Laura Fraser
  Karl Geary



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