Midway through the London Film Festival is a treat, a film that you don’t expect to happen. Or at least, it’s something you didn’t think would happen.
At the Prince Charles Cinema just off Leicester Square, I Am Not A Serial Killer was given its debut in the UK. The film that had created a ‘buzz’ at Sundance earlier this year, all good things, which meant that the audience that turned up, were pretty damn excited to be there. There were more than a couple of shout outs and cheers when the director, Billy O’Brien and the producers introduced the film.
Based on the novel by Dan Wells, the story centers on John Cleaver (Max Records), a teenager with homicidal urges who keeps himself in check with a set of strict rules. But when a serial killer strikes in his Midwestern hometown, John struggles to keep on track. In between helping out at his family’s business, the local funeral home, and sessions with this therapist, John decides that he must find and stop the killer.
On the surface, the film is a about a loner teenager, bullied at school, obsessed with serial killers and recently diagnosed as a sociopath. He continues his daily routines but underneath there is something simmering, just waiting to come out. John decides to find the killer in order to help himself stay in control, but the saying, curiosity killed the cat, could definitely apply here. As John delves deeper and finds the truth, which is delightfully unexpected, he goes through his own personal journey. Starting out not caring about anything and absorbed in his own world, his own rules, John starts to be able to show empathy and his own selfish questions are pushed aside. It’s important that his character grows, as does the killers’ more desperate acts. The story also touches on humanity in a way, which is again, unexpected due to the character who talks about it, giving the film another reason why its so brilliantly pieced together.
There is a supernatural element to the story, there is not getting away from it, but its not quite what you would expect to happen. Bringing folktales and myths into the narrative makes the film different from other stories in this genre. It also adds to the horror element that runs through the film, making you cower in your seats at the thought of what is to appear next. Another aspect of the film, which cleverly executed, fear of the unknown. The less we see of the ‘killer’ heightens the tension and mystery to the killings John is trying to solve. It’s wonderfully creepy and at moments, atmospheric.
The prolific and excellent Christopher Lloyd features opposite Max Records as his neighbor, Mr Crowley. It’s a great character for the actor and he and Records make a great team in the scenes they share. A brilliant film that is rightfully placed in the ‘Cult’ section of the festival as it is sure to have this status in years to come. More than a murder mystery with serial killer intentions, it’s a stand out at the festival.
Dir: Billy O’Brian
Prod: James Harris, Mark Lane, Billy O’Brian, Nick Ryan, Robbie Ryan
Writer: Billy O’Brian, Christopher Hyde
Based on: I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells
Cast: Max Records, Christopher Lloyd, Laura Fraser
Music: Adrian Johnston
DoP: Robbie Ryan
Country: Ireland, UK
Running Time: 103 mins