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I Am Not a Serial Killer, co-written and directed by Billy O’Brien, is a quirky, macabre thriller that explores some interesting ideas and is backed up by good performances, but ultimately falls short.
John (Max Records) is a troubled teen that has been diagnosed with sociopathy, has a morbid fascination with death and is struggling to suppress violent urges. A brutal serial killer is on the loose in his small Midwestern town and John eventually figures out that it’s actually his elderly neighbor Crowley (Christopher Lloyd), who is hiding a dark and terrible secret.
Records gives a solid performance as an unsettling, but charismatic young man that is wrestling with some dark demons indeed. I Am Not a Serial Killer works best when it straddles the line between funny and disturbing – there’s a chilling undertone to the dark humor and a morbid silliness to the horror. It’s a grainy, dimly lit movie that feels like a breath of fresh air amidst the polished gloss of most modern movies.
Christopher Lloyd gives a memorable performance as Crowley. He’s convincing as a sweet, frail old man and as a terrifying, vicious killer. One of the best sequences of I Am Not the Serial Killer involves him stalking John on the streets with his car, with the headlights and the roaring engine alone making a lasting impression.
The problem with the movie is that it never really capitalizes on its very intriguing and bizarre premise. It would have certainly helped if John and Crowley interacted more, as their unusual dynamic and circumstances would have helped to give the movie a more definitive sense of identity than just-kind-of-quirky. As it stands, much of the later half is a rather tedious game of cat-and-mouse, before a surprise third act twist that goes in a very unexpected and somewhat questionable direction.
I Am Not a Serial Killer is funny, scary and interesting, but only at times and in bite-sized portions. Scenes like that of a bemused John scaring his bully off by threatening to succumb to his urges and murdering him check all the boxes but are not as frequent as they should. It’s often too straightforward, giving unsatisfying explanations as to why John doesn’t reach out to the police, but it’s also too weird to be taken fully seriously.
I found it weirdly enjoyable. There’s certainly very little out there that’s quite like it, although whether or not that’s necessarily a good thing is open to interpretation. There’s enough in it to scratch your curiosity itch, but it may not leave much of a lasting impression.