I Am Not A Serial Killer – Review (*** 1/2)

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A mostly successful adaptation of Dan Wells’ 2009 novel of the same name, I Am Not A Serial Killer takes an unconventional, deeply psychological approach to the slasher genre, building a chilly atmosphere and teasing solid performances out of its strong cast, especially an out-of-nowhere Christopher Lloyd.

John Wayne Cleaver (Max Records) is a young sociopath who has frequent, intrusive, murderous thoughts which he desperately tries to keep at bay. He works at the local mortuary (naturally), and soon enough realises that a serial killer is on the loose in his sleepy mid-Western town. Perhaps, it seems, his sinister desires can be put to more altruistic use for once.

Even if it took a fairly down-the-line approach to its killer vs. killer narrative, this would still at least be a cursorily intriguing set-up, but director Billy O’Brien dares to go further by emphasising the more visceral, haunting aspects of the town’s tragic events, digging in deep with both John himself and eventually also the killer.

It can really only end one of two ways from the outset, and O’Brien does a fine job setting the stage for an inevitable third-act showdown that’s as weird as it is oddly poetic. The fair vagueness of this review is necessary to avoid giving the game away, as this thriller may not be quite what some are expecting, what with its thick-and-fast revelations ranging from delicious to dumbfounding. It goes without saying that results are liable to vary among audiences.

Still, O’Brien sets a coolly detached atmosphere from the outset, Where the Wild Things Are’s Max Records gives an impressive performance as the lead (his first turn in five years, since his role in 2011’s lame-duck Jonah Hill comedy The Sitter), while Lloyd, as an elderly, ill resident of the town, brings his massively under-utilised charm to the table, albeit accentuated by an undeniable layer of sadness.

The third act in particular isn’t without its dubious moments, but I Am Not A Serial Killer offers up uniquely weird thrills if you’re prepared to travel down this demented rabbit hole.

*** 1/2

I Am Not A Serial Killer is available now on VOD

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