Director: Billy O’Brien
Writers: Billy O’Brien and Christopher Hyde
Cast: Max Records, Christopher Lloyd, Laura Fraser, Lucy Lawton, Dee Noah and Karl Geary
Synopsis: In a small Midwestern town, a troubled teen with homicidal tendencies must hunt down and destroy a supernatural killer whilst keeping his own inner demons at bay.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
This is the second review of the films I saw at the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival. This one is the adaptation of Dan Wells’ novel of the same name, and in my opinion was one of the three best films playing that weekend. I had the opportunity to read the book years back and really enjoyed it, and I didn’t even know a film was in the works until it premiered at some film festivals. Thankfully, it was playing at this particularly film festival and I got the chance to see it, because it is truly one of the best films of the year.
I Am Not a Serial Killer follows teenager John Wayne Cleaver (Records), who is not like his peers, because John has been diagnosed as a sociopath by his therapist Dr. Neblin (Geary). In order to keep his tendencies from getting the best of him, he makes rules for himself. What keeps some of that at bay is his job of helping his mother down at the morgue. However, the small town he lives in suddenly encounters mysterious and deadly murders that are labeled animals attacks. John being curious starts to investigates and eventually finds out what is causing the vicious attacks, and it’s something that he never anticipated.
While the novel is classified as a Young Adult Novel, the novel and the film don’t feel that way. The film feels like an indie, off-beat comedy with thriller elements and even a little horror thrown in there. It also helps that director Billy O’Brien choose to shoot the movie on actual film because it gives it a nice grainy look that completely fits the film’s tone and overall feeling. It also gives the film a great look when the setting of the film changes from fall to winter.
One of the big reasons I Am Not a Serial Killer works is because of the cast, mainly lead actor Max Records as John Wayne Cleaver. The film is built on his shoulders and he carries it gracefully. You completely buy his character, and while he is supposed to have sociopathic thoughts, you still root for and care about him. Christopher Lloyd plays John’s neighbor Mr. Crowley is also great to watch especially once he gets more screen time.
It will help those who watch it that the cast is great and has great and well-timed comedic beats at the beginning because the film is a slow-burn. The film never feels boring, although it briefly lingers around the middle, but it made sense why it did, and Records makes those moments still work. But, when all the pieces fall into place you’ll appreciate the grand scheme of it all.
Since I read the book, I knew the last act of the film comes from out of nowhere, and I think some people will be thrown off by it. The one thing I will say about the novel and the book ending – of course without spoiling it – is the film handles the last bit a little better than the source material. Mostly because the film adds more to the ending than the novel did with the main person involved. The other thing the novel does different from the book is establish some characters more. Especially the relationship between John and Mr. Crowley that was something I was really missing – and is missed – from the film.
All in all, I Am Not a Serial Killer is definitely worth the watch, and is for sure one the best films of the year. While the slow burn and ending will leave some viewers feeling antsy, Max Records and the off-beat comedy moments will leave you hooked right up until the very ending.
I Am Not a Serial Killer
5 out of 5