DIRECTOR: Billy O'Brien
Michael Paul Levin
John Wayne Cleaver is not like other teenage boys, he is a diagnosed sociopath. John assists as his mother's funeral business and has a fascination with death. He doesn't feel any emotion towards anything or anyone. When a string of brutal murders begin happening in the small town that he is from, John starts to suspect that it may be his elderly neighbour who is the serial killer committing the murders. As he begins to spy on him, he soon realises that it may be something much darker.
I Am Not A Serial Killer is based on the novel of the same name. I hadn't actually had the pleasure of reading the story before going into this movie. I have, however, heard a few really positive things about the novel from some of the followers over on Twitter that have told me that the book is fantastic. With my review of the film adaptation, I won't be making any comparisons to the novel as I haven't had a chance to read the source material. Please let me know in the comments if you've seen and read both.
When I went into I Am Not A Serial Killer, I was completely unaware of what to expect from this movie or prepared for what I was about to witness. I can remember seeing the trailer a few months before but not remembering a single thing from the trailer, I went into this one blind. The only thing I expected was a small town murder mystery. After watching I Am A Serial Killer, I was left completely shocked as well as surprised by what I had just witnessed with this film.
The film begins like a homespun, small town, murder mystery vibe. When the movie introduces us to our lead character, and we follow in his footsteps as an outcast. John is your typical teenage boy who is seen as the freak in his Midwestern high school. He works in a morgue. He's interested in prepping dead bodies. He has that emo quality to him, and it feels like I've seen this sort of story before. It's the early serial killer in the making tale.
The second act of I Am Not A Serial Killer begins to unravel the story a little more. I found myself during the second act also picking up on several very similar plot beats to Rear Window, Disturbia, as well as John Lithgow's 'Trinity Killer' from his season of Dexter. The spying, the stalking, watching the neighbour as he murders people, it felt again like I had seen it all before. Still, I found myself really enjoying the dynamic of Max Records and Christopher Lloyd.
Once we get to the third act of the film, the story starts to deliver the strange. This is where shit hits the fan, and it never stops moving from this moment on. What mostly plays like a small town murder mystery turns into something that is akin to the great John Carpenter's The Thing. I was not at all prepared for the insanity or where it ends up going. Those final few minutes shocked me. I thought I had this pegged from the beginning and was completely blindsided by the third act. It is deserving of the praise that the critics have been giving it.
One thing that needs to be noted on what I loved about I Am A Serial Killer is that it doesn't feel like it has a substantial or complex twist. It's a movie that slowly unravels and even gives up who the killer is early on with glimpses of what the killer is capable of, and yet when it's finally revealed, it still kicked my ass all over the place and I was still left jaw agape. I was left thinking 'what have I just witnessed'? This is one of the oddest turns I've seen in a film in quite some time, but I loved it. It needs to be seen to be believed.
The acting is absolutely fantastic in I Am Not A Serial Killer. To see Max Records come from Where The Wild Things Are which was based on my all-time favourite childhood book into a mature role like this film, I can't wait to see what he has in store for us in the future. He may not be acting in a lot, but his performances and turns are always memorable to me. Christopher Lloyd is a long way from Back To The Future. This is probably his most dark and sinister performance, and I would put him up there with Robin Williams in One Hour Photo.
Lastly, I Am A Serial Killer isn't a movie that I'd call scary. This movie doesn't ever really deliver enormous jump scares but what it does well is that it slowly builds the tension in several scenes. The ending scene is one that had me on the edge of my seat. Billy O'Brien has crafted a neat and at times intense, low-budget, supernatural, serial killer thriller. The movie also has a few scenes that will definitely make some viewers quite uncomfortable. I was pleasantly surprised.
DEATH TOLL: 8
BLOOD AND GORE:
- Entrails fall out onto the street in front of onlookers.
- A female corpse is being prepared for embalming.
- Blood is seen being drained from a body.
- A corpse is shown ripped in half.
- Pieces of someone's stomach are displayed on a slab.
- A corpse is shown with its arm torn off.
- Someone is stabbed.
- Two police officers are choked to death with oil.
- Someone's chest is being ripped open.
- Someone's head is bashed in with a telephone.
- Someone is hit by a car.
- Someone is injected with embalming fluid and drained.
I Am Not A Serial Killer feels like a low-budget homespun murder mystery, with a bit of Rear Window and a splash of John Carpenter's The Thing. I thought I had this film picked from the first moments and was left entirely shocked by the third act. The film has some solid gore, tension, and some great lead performances from Max Records and Christopher Lloyd. If you want an original and bonkers serial killer thriller, this is a movie that deserves to be seen. I hope we get more of the book series made into films as I'd like to continue with these characters.