Co-written and directed by Billy O’Brien and based on the novel by Dan Wells (the other writer on the feature was Christopher Hyde) I Am Not a Serial Killer could almost be seen as a tongue-in-cheek black comedy.
There is something deliciously dark about having the lead character named after two figures that scream American values and apple pie. John Wayne, the all American film icon and Cleaver, the name associated with Ward and June Cleaver (as well as Wally and of course Beaver) from Leave it to Beaver.
The fact that Cleaver has been diagnosed by his therapist as a sociopath makes this all the more interesting. From the very start we learn that this youngster’s character is dichotomous at best.
Just as clever was the choice to name the chief suspect for all the murders “Crowley.” A murderous fellow who may or may not be a faerie. Since Aleister Crowley was an infamous deviant and English occultist who was well known for his excesses in everything, this was a splendid bit of irony.
The film’s story has social inept John Wayne Cleaver suffering from sociopathic tendencies despite seeing his therapist (Irish actor Karl Geary) regularly. John is terrified that he will inadvertently harm or kill someone. On top of all this, the teenager’s mother prepares dead bodies for burial and John helps.
It is inarguably strange to have a teenage boy helping to embalm the corpses brought into the funeral home for April (Laura Fraser) to prepare. It is only later that she decides this macabre job might not be too healthy for her son.
There is a serial killer hunting the streets of John’s town and he tries to work out who the murderer is. Cleaver is friends with the old couple across the street, the Crowleys, and they could well be the only people in town who do not think Cleaver odd.
Unfortunately, it seems that Old Man Crowley has his own reasons for not believing that Cleaver is odd.
I Am Not a Serial Killer is an odd duck of a film. The main protagonists are not the normal run of the mill heroes in these types of features. John falls outside the he-man type savour of the town rolemodel.
The teenager attends therapy on a regular basis. John is fascinated by serial killers and he writes papers on them for school. Last year he investigated the workings of Jeffrey Dahmer and another infamous killer is the focus of his school paper.
Cleaver is clearly a strange lad. When the school bully picks on him, the boy smiles back at his tormentor and then explains that as a sociopath he does not see the other boy as a person. He talks on this vein until he scares the hell out of the bigger lad.
As John fights his own inner demons and sociopathic urges, he works to stop the serial killer who is, he finds out, a sort of supernatural being.
I Am Not a Serial Killer is a cracking film that delivers an interesting mix of old and new. While the villain feels like a variation on Hexxus from the 1992 animated feature FernGully: The Last Rainforest the payoff at the end is quite different.
The film is based on the first in a series of young adult novels written by Dan Wells. Cleaver is an interesting lad who has to “rehearse” his interactions with other people. (Who he self admittedly sees as objects instead of people.) He also agonizes over his apparent homicidal tendencies.
I Am Not a Serial Killer is a full 5 star film. It offers an interesting story and brilliant acting from Lloyd, Geary and Records. The film is not rated, but there are scenes that feature some viscera and a bit of blood. Most of the murders, however, are fairly low key with the act, in one instance, happening off camera and another so far away that actual details are not discernable.
The film is available on Netflix for streaming or for downloading. For fans of horror this is a cracking little treat. Go check it out and see what you think.