I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER (Ireland | UK/16/104mins)
Directed by Billy O’Brien. Starring Christopher Lloyd, Max Records, Laura Fraser, Karl Geary, Bruce Bohne
THE PLOT: John Cleaver (Max Records) has always been a troubled kid. Working at the family funeral home does not help matters, but being able to talk honestly with his therapist Dr Neblin (Karl Geary) about his homicidal thoughts and fascination with killing. John manages to never act on his impulses, but when people begin to die at the hands of a serial killer in his small town, he must hunt down and confront the killer, while keeping his own inner demons in check.
THE VERDICT: It has been five long years since Max Records last appeared in a film, and the adorable little boy from ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ is all grown up now, and playing a kid obsessed with death and what it might feel like to kill. Max Records amazingly manages to make this damaged and potentially dangerous teenager relatable and likeable as he struggles with his own demons and tries to understand a killer who is on the loose. Christopher Lloyd plays an ailing elderly man who John becomes fascinated with, and does well at making the character affable on the surface, but with his own secrets that he is hiding. Laura Fraser plays John’s overworked and frazzled mother who desperately tries to hold her family together. The rest of the cast features Karl Geary, Bruce Bohne and James Gaulke.
Christopher Hyde and Billy O’Brien adapted Dan Wells’ novel for the big screen, and have managed to make the film darkly intriguing and supernatural, with a hefty dose of humour and strangeness thrown in to make I am Not a Serial Killer less obvious and familiar than audiences would at first think. The dialogue is strong and the eerie feel of the story permeates every corner of the film.
As director, Irish man Billy O’Brien keeps the film moving at a steady pace, while making John’s struggle between the darker and lighter sides of his personality feel natural. The performances in the film are strong, in particular Max Records who ably carries this strange and eerie story on his shoulders. The humour is well dispersed in the film, and John’s increasing isolation throughout the film makes the horror element of the story even more creepy and unsettling. The supernatural element of the film sometimes doesn’t quite sit well with the teen angst side of the film, however, and there are times when the story feels rather drawn out, and as though it is staggering toward a close.
In all, however, ‘I am Not a Serial Killer’ is a dark, twisted and surprisingly affecting story of a disconnected teen who suddenly finds himself drawn to a monster that stalks his home town. The humour is well balanced in the film, the dialogue strong and the performances engaging, but there are times when ‘I am Not a Serial Killer’ is frustratingly slow and a little drawn out.
RATING: 3.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    In 2005, Irish director Billy O’Brien made a startling debut with Isolation, a farm-set creature feature that was strong on atmospherics and good performances. He hasn’t made much of note since… until now with his America-set I Am Not A Serial Killer.

    John (Max Records) is a typically discontented teenager living in smalltown America. When he’s not in school butting heads with bullies about how different he is, he works with his mother April (Laura Fraser) in the morgue. John is fascinated by death and corpses – a fact not lost on his therapist Dr. Neblin (Karl Geary). He notices a missing organ on one freshly arrived cadaver, sparking suspicion that this is another victim of the infamous local serial killer. John is fascinated by serial killers himself and even has some serial killer tendencies, but hasn’t acted upon them yet. One day, he follows his elderly neighbour Crowley (Christopher Lloyd) out to a frozen lake and witnesses him killing another man in a very strange manner. Believing Crowley to be the serial killer, John soon taunts him as they play a dangerous game of cat and mouse together – or should that be cat and cat?

    Based on the young adult novel by Dan Wells, I Am Not A Serial Killer is a low-key horror thriller that shows some similarities to Isolation. It’s strong on atmospherics, tension and the pervading sense of impending death. Other than brief flashes, it’s also low on gore. What the audience can imagine is far worse than what the director can put on screen – fair play to O’Brien for not going down the obvious horror route. He must have a thing for winter-set chillers too, as it becomes a character in itself. Robbie Ryan’s crisp cinematography literally gives you the chills as the plot thickens and the body count starts mounting up. O’Brien and Christopher Hyde’s script is clever enough to avoid predictability and instead play around with audience sympathies.

    The interplay between Records and Lloyd is particularly good. Records, all grown-up since Where The Wild Things Are, could have a future as an angsty youth with a dark side. Lloyd shreds the cuddly Dr Brown for something altogether different, but he also gets across the frailty of the character. This is a very old, possibly human killer who is nearing the end of his game. Towards the end, the film takes a turn into genre territory, but does so in a sombre and under-stated way. O’Brien’s direction is sterling throughout, cranking up the tension as we wonder who will be next to kill – Crowley or John? It takes one to know one… I Am Not A Serial Killer could be lost in the pre-Christmas crush of new releases, but this is a little cracker of a film that will delight horror fans and those seeking wintry chills. Let’s hope that we don’t have to wait another decade for O’Brien to make another solid genre effort. ****