RJ Bayley Reviews: I Am Not a Serial Killer
There are some video games which are just utterly compelling to watch. Nine times out of ten, for my girlfriend and I at least (and let’s be honest, I would be an adult version of the worst kid at school if it were anyone else – “Hey Jon, you wanna come round and watch me play Uncharted 4?”), it’s the more experimental, often indie ones. Be it me watching my girlfriend play Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture or Gone Home, or her watching me play Heavy Rain, there’s something enthralling about increasingly tense, deeply personal quests unfolding in contained, singular atmospheres that often ask as many questions as they answer.
Director Billy O’Brien’s I Am Not a Serial Killer, and I mean this as a very big compliment, is the cinematic equivalent of that style of game.
Max Records (the lead actor, not an independent music shop in gentrified Sheffield) is given the gift of a role that is John Wayne Cleaver, a teenager who his psychiatrist, mother and he himself, believes to be fated to be a serial killer, thanks to his morbid obsessions and diagnosis as a sociopath. When an actual serial killer emerges in the small midwest American town of Clayton however, the police are clueless to apprehend the murderer.
So it’s up to Cleaver to use his knowledge of serial killers, unmask the attacker and clear his own name as suspicions inevitably turn to him, right?
This film takes a wonderfully sharp 100° turn that revolves around Christopher Lloyd’s Crowley, but not in the way you’re expecting.
The atmosphere is thick as a snowdrift, with both characters taking increasingly desperate measures to further their causes. Records completely sells actions that would’ve been harder to swallow in a lesser actor’s hands, and the skilful writing backs this up by examining his state of mind, both through his own, distanced, self-analytical lens, and through the perceptions and expectations of those around him.
Lloyd meanwhile, reminds us that away from goofing off in movies about killer fish, he can really, really act.
This utterly gripping exploration of internal conflicts and small town hysteria is a perfect showcase for both.