Having caught a screener of Billy O’Brien’s adaptation of the cult YA novel I Am Not a Serial Killer, (which has spawned several sequels of it’s own), I was excited to see how it played for an audience. A quirky mix of horror, mystery and coming of age stories I was greatly impressed but wondered if it would be to much of a mixed bag for others. I shouldn’t have worried, it took Bronze in the Feature Film Audience Choice Award.
As a series of brutal murders terrifies a quiet town John (Max Records), a teenager obsessed with serial killers and the son of the local mortician April (Laura Fraser). Already diagnosed as sociopathic and under the care of a therapist Dr. Neblin (Karl Geary), his mental health seems to deteriorate as he investigates the killings. Already pushing his self imposed rules to keep himself from snapping he’s forced to break them when he becomes convinced his kindly old neighbor and family friend Mr Crowley (Christopher Lloyd) is the killer, and possibly not human.
A slow, deliberately paced film that build it’s plot and suspense deliberately before picking up the pace for the last act. That’s not to say there’s no action, there’s some serious burst of blood and violence in the build up but it mostly character driven, letting us get inside the characters and their issues. It’s not afraid to have John do some awful things trying to flush out the killer or have the killer show some very tender and human emotions. Just like real life, nothing is black and white here.
The film is also a stunning comeback for co-writer and director Billy O’Brien. After impressing with his first feature the chilling Isolation he followed it up with the generic Ferocious Planet and the absolutely abysmal Hybrid. But here he’s back on form, keeping the film’s threads well connected, getting the most out of the cold, snowy setting pulling solid performances from the cast. With many scenes, including several killings taking place in the light of the cold winter sun, the O’Brien takes a major risk by defying expectations. Thankfully it paid off, catching the audience off guard more than once. Hopefully O’Brien stays on top of his game from now on.
Don’t let it’s YA novel origins put you off, I Am Not a serial Killer is one of the year’s best films. Dark and complex it demands more attention than the average genre film, but it’s more than worth it. It’s available on VOD from IFC Midnight.