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John Wayne Cleaver (a nice name which suggests a sort of hero slasher!) is a 17 year old boy who helps his mother at the mortuary removing organs from bodies and replacing blood with embalming fluid. He has a somewhat unhealthy obsession with serial killers to the point he has a therapist (he even tells people that he has to be nice to them because he is actually thinking about killing them!). The town is living in fear as several people have been killed or gone missing. When John spots someone acting suspiciously on more than one occasion he surreptitiously follows the figure to a surprising revelation. But it’s one thing knowing who the killer is, it’s quite another doing something about it. Everyone treats John with distaste, mistrust or ridicule, so he is obliged to take matters into his own hands. However, the killer knows the enemy, and events lead to an astounding game of cat and mouse...
Christopher Lloyd is already a minor legend for his eccentric appearances in Taxi and Back to the Future, but the real star in this movie is Max Records. He perfectly portrays a teenager who is an aloof (but not necessarily cold) passive-aggressive with the presence of a victim unless he has something to say. Although he doesn’t bond with anyone (his family and one friend quite plainly outsiders) you can’t help siding with him... proving the acting is spot on.
There are obvious links to the excellent Donnie Darko: occasional black humour against a bleak subject matter (John uses an unwanted panda hat Christmas gift as a disguise in the latter stages), and the ‘nobody’ with sociopathic tendencies who uncovers corruption within a relatively small community whilst riding a bike! However, it’s a very different film with its own clever moments. I don’t want to give too much away, but there are plenty of surprises. I particularly like the scene wherein John follows the suspicious hooded figure as another person is apparently abducted, only to witness the revelation that the supposed victim is actually the aggressor.
John’s morbid fascination with killer and dead bodies is entirely conducive to the plot. The groundwork for the rather unusual finale is carefully laid out in plain sight, so that you can’t see the wood for the trees, so to speak.
There is nothing forced or contrived about I Am Not a Serial Killer; it flows with a real sense of professionalism. Even the kills are not the main scenes; there is no need for extreme violence and gore in a movie which so obviously feels comfortable in its own skin (which is ironic when you view the conclusion).
The film is a British/Irish co-production filmed in America. It has been almost universally acclaimed, and not without just cause. Director Billy O’Brien has done a sterling job (matched by a perfectly weighted score), and I’m certain we’ll be seeing more of Max Records (check out on the extras the test scenes filmed when he was younger).