I Am Not a Serial Killer
The town of Clayton claims to have a population of 7,891 people. By the end of Billy O’Brien’s gory adaptation I Am Not a Serial Killer, that number will be significantly lower. A high school student named John (Max Records) assists his mother (Breaking Bad’s Laura Fraser) at the local funeral home, which experiences a sudden boom in business following a string of unexplained killings. After being clinically diagnosed with Sociopathy, and several serial killer tendencies, John carefully controls his behaviour with a series of rules, which he claims prevent him from committing murder himself. In fact, he seems more like a typical lonely teenager than the writers seem to have intended. He practises social interactions in advance, and gets tongue tied around his crush. These are not evil traits; there is a little of all of us in him. He spends his time negotiating with bullies, wandering the streets at night and avoiding an overly flirtatious classmate.
John’s slightly morbid fascination with blood and death concerns his teachers at school, but also leads him to witness several brutal Thanksgiving murders, in a string of attacks that traumatise his small town. The stress and seemingly paranormal happenings cause the character to take a downward and increasingly violent spiral. Rather than remaining a mystery until the end, the killer is revealed quickly, and instead of a whodunnit, the film becomes a tense game of cat-and-mouse between John and the murderer. It is these earlier scenes that are the strongest, with sudden bursts of violence amid eerily serene settings. Fraser, as the uptight Mrs Cleaver steals every scene she is in, and a menacing organ soundtrack contrasts well with the dull setting of the town.
Stuck between the psychopaths of Dexter and the snowy small town setting of Fargo, the movie never quite manages to convince one of what it intends to be. The murderer, when seen in action, doesn’t appear to be physically capable of the horrific feats we witness. The protagonist, despite a strong performance from Records, is not sufficiently evil to make his dalliances with the dark side even remotely threatening. His abstract sessions with his therapist, who for some reason is Irish, are rambling and expositional, causing the film to lose some of the momentum it gains when John is alone with his thoughts. Losing its driving force towards the third act with too many funerals and vigils for characters we don’t care about, I Am Not a Serial Killer has a fresh look, but not enough conviction of theme to carry it to complete success.
I Am Not a Serial Killer is released nationwide on 9th December 2016.
Watch the trailer for I Am Not a Serial Killer here: