Review: I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER (2016){0}

Where the Wild Killings Are

Sixteen-year-old John Wayne Cleaver (Where the Wild Things Are’s Max Records) is no ordinary teenager living in Clayton County, Georgia. For John is a clinically diagnosed sociopath with an unhealthy fascination for death and murder – perhaps a product of his upbringing in the funeral home run by his family – and who, his psychotherapist points out, exhibits all three of the traits shared by 95% of all serial killers: bedwetting, pyromania and animal cruelty. One day, a local mechanic is found dead, torn to pieces in what one witness describes as “a bizarre animal attack” – the second such death in recent months. Suspecting that a serial killer may be at work in his own sleepy neighbourhood, John sets about investigating the crime himself. But when the trail leads to an old friend, 79-year-old Bill Crowley (Christopher Lloyd), John must decide whether to go the police with his suspicions, or become the septuagenarian serial killer’s partner in crime.

With a killer premise like that, Irish director Billy O’Brien’s I Am Not a Serial Killer – imaginatively adapted by O’Brien and Christopher Hyde from Dan Wells’ cult horror novel – could go one of two ways: into the realm of Fright Night-like horror-comedy, or into the darker territory of, say, Apt Pupil. It’s a testament to all three writers, O’Brien’s direction, and Max Records’ BIFA-nominated performance, that the film successfully negotiates both approaches, before marking out its own genre-bending territory. In fact, as the film’s layers are peeled away, it reveals more of a dreamlike Donnie Darko vibe, as John at first becomes a passive observer in a series of bizarre events, and must ultimately decide whether to accept his fate – or challenge it. And, as with that film (shortly to receive a 15th anniversary re-release), things only make sense as the final narrative twist is revealed.

I Am Not a Serial Killer is not a major film, but it is a worthy one, and it boasts two very good performances, from Max Records and Christopher Lloyd (both justly nominated, along with the screenwriters, for British Independent Film Awards). With his third feature (four if you count the made-TV Ferocious Planet), O’Brien joins Corin Hardy (The Hallow) and Ivan Kavanagh (The Canal) on the list of Irish filmmakers making some of the most interesting horror films around; if he can keep finding material of this quality, and soliciting performances this fine from his cast, he will have a very promising career indeed.

David Hughes

I Am Not a Serial Killer is released in the UK in December