by Brody Rossiter
Adapted from Dan Wells’ 2009’s novel of the same name, I Am Not A Serial Killer follows troubled teenager, John Wayne Cleaver (Max Records), as he comes to terms with being diagnosed as a sociopath. John’s mother April (Laura Fraser) is the local mortician, and business is booming of late, with at least two bodies a week passing through the Cleaver family home – a trend which quickly piques his macabre interests.
Using his largely untapped serial-killer senses, John quickly identifies the true threat lurking behind the mounting body count, and sets about revealing the truth while simultaneously navigating the perils of growing up in a tired Midwestern town.
The picture’s sleepy, lo-fi aesthetic, subversive coming-of-age narrative, dynamic soundtrack and consistently endearing performances amount to a characterful and engaging mystery. Snowy, dreamlike sequences mesh with startling physical encounters. Many may recognise Records from his leading role in Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are, another troubled yet fantastical vision of youth. His apathetical performance is subdued yet distinct, unsettling yet awkwardly heartfelt. Alongside Christopher Lloyd, who stars as John’s lethargic neighbour Bill, Fraser and the unassuming locals amount to a lifelike portrait that grows increasingly disrupted thanks to the murderous forces at play.
Director Billy O’Brien has managed to unearth a moving and meditative narrative from beneath his icy subject matter, evoking the spirit of early David Gordon Green and Rian Johnson pictures. Restrained, unique and wonderfully acted, the picture is a darkly comic endeavour that achieves a great deal for contemporary horror.