John (the wonderfully named Max Records) lives in the sleepy Midwestern town of Clayton. As the snow begins to fall and Christmas draws ever closer, John's life grinds along a path all-too-familiar to him: he's generally considered odd due to his obsession with serial killers and his own homicidal tendencies, which he keeps at bay by sticking to a set of strict self-imposed rules. Regular sessions with therapist Grant (Karl Geary) also help. John's oddness makes him a target for bullies at school; his only friend is horror movie-watching fat kid Max (Raymond Brandstrom).
Oh yeah. It would be remiss of me if I didn't mention that in his free time John likes to unwind by helping his mother and aunty at their family-ran funeral home. You know, assisting in the preparation of fresh cadavers...
The troubled teenager's life takes on a greater sense of purpose when residents of Clayton start turning up murdered. The local news reports that cops are baffled, with the only consistencies between the killings being that (a) the assailant removes either a limb or organ from their victim each time, and (b) a curious puddle of a black tar-like substance is left behind every time.
Naturally, and fuelled by the fact that he's had close-up first-hand sight of at least one of the corpses thanks to the family business, John's morbid curiosity overwhelms him and he becomes determined to unmask the killer.
But can John keep his own homicidal impulses in check while tracking a killer with rather surprising motives of their own?
The above synopsis is perhaps a little vaguer than what I'd usually offer, but I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER deserves - for those not already familiar with the 2009 novel of the same name by Dan Wells, anyway - to be seen fresh. Go into it as blindly as you can. It's best not knowing what's to come, and enjoying those twists and curveballs as they happen.
What you get is a hip indie flick with an unexpectedly warm heart. You get a fantastically engaging central performance from Records, who manages to earn our empathy despite portraying a character incapable of feeling that same emotion towards others. It's quite remarkable that he manages to make us like his character, and even share in the mischief on the rare occasion that he cracks a broad smile. I note that he also resembles a young Ross Noble at times.
Anyhow, he's ably supported by the likes of Laura Fraser (as his mother) and especially a very senior-looking Christopher Lloyd (as his neighbour). Lloyd takes a back seat for the first act before growing in prominence during the final hour. His is a measured, largely subdued performance: he pitches it perfectly.
Director Billy O'Brien delivers the winding storyline with skill, keeping the dialogue snappy and the pace ticking over nicely at all times. The balance of humour and horror is handled well, the abundance of quirky characters and rural sense of place lending this feel of either an Australian or Canadian production (it's not: it's an Irish-UK co-production, shot in Minnesota).
The occasional use of alt-rock on the score feels a little forced in an effort for cool, but the insistence on employing old-school practical effects more than compensates.
I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER comes to UK blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Spirit Entertainment Ltd. We were sent a copy of the blu-ray to review.
The film looks impressive as an MPEG4-AVC file, presenting itself in full 1080p HD. The original 1.66:1 ratio is adhered to in a strong 16x9 format, with smooth imagery, fine detail and solid colours throughout. With no compression issues to speak of, this is a very nice offering.
English audio is presented in options of 2.0 stereo LPCM and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes. Both are reliable affairs, with the latter offering a more well-rounded and occasionally terrifying proposition.
The disc opens to an attractive animated main menu page. From there, pop-up menus include a scene selection option affording access to the film by way of 12 chapters.
Bonus material kicks off with an original 3-minute "test film" which was shot in Michigan over the course of three days, back in 2011. It plays more like a trailer for the final film, albeit looking decidedly lower in budget. Records was just 13 when he featured in this, which is quite amusing.
We also get a minute's worth of footage comparing 2011 test footage against the re-filmed scene which made the final cut in 2015, involving a scene where Records speaks to the killer on a public telephone.
Toby Froud and his team of FX geniuses lead us through a 2-minute featurette next, show how one key scene (which I shan’t discuss here) was realised. Animatronics, puppetry and green screen magic all come into play.
Five deleted scenes offer little of consequence but are here for the curious. They can be viewed either individually or as a whole by selecting the "Play All" function.
3 minutes of storyboards follow.
Finally we have a 1-minute gallery of drawings from Froud, depicting early conceptual designs for the film's climactic set-piece.
I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER is a charming, original and inventive coming-of-age drama topped off by great performances and a wildly unpredictable plot. Check it out.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Spirit Entertainment Ltd|