It’s tough being a teenager. Dealing with your parents, bullies and the opposite sex are all stressful enough on their own. One issue most teenagers don’t struggle with is the urge to kill. John (Max Records) has been officially diagnosed as a sociopath by his therapist, but don’t worry, he’s working on that. The growing pains of a fledgling serial killer might sound like a bleak prospect, but I Am Not a Serial Killer is more wry and matter-of-fact about the subject, rather than pushing for high tragedy. John is genuinely fighting his urges and, despite his obsession with famous serial killers, there’s little fear he’s about to go on a spree.
Records gives a great performance, balancing teenage angst, murderous impulses and a compassionate heart in just the right amounts. Christopher Lloyd is also a disturbing presence as a neighbour with extreme and supernatural issues of his own.
Christopher Hyde and Billy O’Brien’s script explores some complex questions about fighting our natural urges, but it isn’t tight enough when it comes to pacing and plot development. There are some strong ideas here, but they don’t fit together as well as one might hope.
Director Billy O’Brien and DoP Robbie Ryan combine to great effect, particularly as the film fully embraces its more generic roots in the final act. Both feel more comfortable in this mode compared to the more cerebral early moments. O’Brien shoots some disturbing scenes and Ryan continues his increasingly impressive career (Fish Tank, Slow West, American Honey), with some beautiful, gritty photography.
Neither the characters nor the script are strong enough to keep this captivating all the way through. The film is strongest in its most outrageous, emotive moments, and along with the great performances it offers a lot to enjoy.
CAST: Max Records, Christopher Lloyd, Laura Fraser, Karl Geary
DIRECTOR: Billy O’Brien
WRITERS: Christopher Hyde and Billy O’Brien (screenplay), Dan Wells (novel)
SYNOPSIS: In a small Midwestern town, a troubled teen with homicidal tendencies must hunt down and destroy a supernatural killer while keeping his own inner demons at bay.