“Fear is a funny thing, people fear things but never their own actions…” – John Cleaver
Based on the book by Dan Wells and directed by Billy O’Brien, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Christopher Hyde, I Am Not a Serial Killer is one heck of a bizarre, yet acutely intriguing, movie that fascinates and surprises throughout.
Set in a small Midwestern town, Max Records plays John Cleaver, a troubled young teen who’s seeing a therapist and has been told he’s got the personality disorders of a sociopath but being aware of such inklings means there may be ways for him to control it… if he wants to. While he deals with this and also bullies in his school by applying various rules onto his day-to-day life, there’s a spate of grisly murders locally. The events begin to capture his attention because John has an obsession with serial killers and is trying to work out if the unknown slaughterer is developing any patterns to make him stand out.
What you’ll learn from I Am Not a Serial Killer is that it doesn’t follow a normal rhythm from beginning to end because although the early stages do have those wonderful eerie and unusual vibes of Donnie Darko, the connection here being his unsettled mind, O’Brien’s film also takes on a supernatural edge as it delves into darker and more mysterious territories. Alongside gritty, natural cinematography from Robbie Ryan, whose work we’ve seen recently on Slow West, American Honey and I, Daniel Blake, you end up being dragged into the single-focus mind of John and his quest to discover the truth of what’s really going on.
I Am Not a Serial Killer gradually develops a wonderful dark and interesting melancholy that, in essence, asks very simple questions within quintessentially intense situations in a local community. It’s also important to point out that along the way there’s also an underlying current of dark comic humour that keeps the balance quite nicely. Max Records is particularly fascinating in the lead of John Cleaver and we also get to see the legendary Christopher Lloyd really embed in something very unique as he, once again, brings to life an unfamiliar character.
Full of surprises with plenty of turns in events, it’s a distinctive tale of love, life, death and it’s engagingly realised.
4/5 – I Am Not a Serial Killer is available now on Digital, Blu-ray and DVD.
Review originally published on 6 December, 2016.