I Am Not a Serial Killer (4 stars)

Darkly funny and surprisingly tender mystery thriller from Billy O'Brien, with Christopher Lloyd

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I Am Not a Serial Killer

Director Billy O'Brien and co-writer Christopher Hyde have fashioned the first book in a series by Dan Wells into a darkly funny and off-the-wall coming-of-ager that's part gruesome crime thriller and part supernatural mystery. These elements perfectly align thanks to the great talent behind the scenes and in front of the camera. Shot on 16mm by Robbie Ryan (American Honey), the film possesses the grainy texture of a 1970s 'midnight movie' featuring billowing steam, slippery innards and chilling organ music that recalls the theme to Don Coscarelli's cult classic Phantasm.

John Wayne Cleaver (Max Records) has been deemed abnormal by his teachers and classmates. Exhibiting many of the predictors for a serial killer, he is a worry to his mortuary owner mother April (Laura Fraser) but, with the help of his therapist Dr Neblin (Karl Geary), is learning to deal with his dark side. When local residents start being viciously murdered John becomes embroiled in the investigation.

Records (Where the Wild Things Are) shines in the lead role as a superbly shaded-in teen sociopath whose brain is laid out on the cinematic slab for the audience to slice open and examine. The actor really inhabits his role, excitedly poking around the bloody remains of victims and suspiciously sliding along ominous corridors, conveying John's inner demons and obsession with death. He's a fascinating character who you can't help but root for, and who shares some similarities to TV's Dexter Morgan in his attempts to stick to his own unique moral code.

John's family situation is compassionately depicted and his relationship with elderly neighbour Crowley (living legend Christopher Lloyd) riffs wonderfully on a fear of ageing and decaying. We first meet Crowley asking John to help him send a kiss to his wife on his mobile phone, it's such a sweet display of affection amidst all the gory killings and panic that it immediately warms your heart. The strong screenplay demonstrates such an intuitive understanding of human emotion and despair that it elevates this genre gem into something strangely tender.

Selected release from Fri 9 Dec.

I Am Not A Serial Killer

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • Ireland / UK
  • 104 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Billy O'Brien
  • Cast: Christopher Lloyd, Laura Fraser, Max Records
  • UK release: 9 December 2016

John Wayne Cleaver (Records) is a lonely teenager considered abnormal by his teachers and classmates; when local residents start being murdered, he gets involved in the investigation. Darkly funny and surprisingly tender mystery thriller, with an intuitive understanding of human emotion and despair.

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