Latest Review – I Am Not a Serial Killer [60th BFI LFF] [Cult]

I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER

A Film By Billy O’Brien

Genre: Thriller • Year: 2016 • Country: UK | Ireland • Running Time: 104 minutes • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 • Image: Colour• Language: English


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An adaptation of Dan Wells’ cult 2009 young adult thriller novel of the same name, Billy O’Brien’s darkly comic and unconventional supernatural thriller is, at its core, an intriguing and cleverly constructed study of adolescence, alienation and the nature of death.

Though what begins as a fairly straightforward concept soon morphs into something much more unique and fascinating, as O’Brien unexpectedly diverts the viewers expectation, twisting and turning the central plot into a refreshing and strangely empathetic portrait of an emotionally troubled and apathetic outsider.

Best known for his central role in Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, former child actor Max Records is virtually unrecognisable and in excellent form as medically diagnosed sociopathetic central figure John Wayne Cleaver, a disturbed Midwestern teenager – obsessed with serial killers – and desperately fighting his own morbid impulses and the constant temptations to become one himself. Though when a genuine monster makes itself known in the town, Cleaver is forced to reassess his rigid rules and let is dark side free in order to stop it.

With such sinister and deep rooted compulsions – and a name that combines that of infamous ‘Killer Clown’ serial killer John Wayne Gacy and a large butcher’s knife intended for hacking through bone – Cleaver could quite easily come across as totally detached and unlikable. However, in portraying his resolution to keep his killer instincts at bay and attempts to maintain a sense of normality and goodness, O’Brien and Records transform him into a rather likeable and wholly engaging protagonist.

Directed and performed with surprising restraint by O’Brien and co-stars Records and the great Christopher Lloyd as Cleaver’s mysterious elderly neighbour, I Am Not a Serial Killer is a sleeper hit that will undoubtedly develop a loyal cult following over the years to come.

Due to budget constraints some of the CGI effects do slightly suffer, however that should not detract from what is an otherwise strong piece of work, beautifully shot in 16mm by experienced cinematographer Robbie Ryan.

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