John Wayne Cleaver is a teen in a small Midwestern town who’s been diagnosed as a sociopath by his therapist whom he sees at his mortician mom’s prodding., As the struggles with his own tendencies, self-imposing rules to be “normal”, a supernatural being is killing the townspeople and it’s down to him to stop it.
Based on the Dan Wells novel, adapted by Christopher Hyde and Billy O’Brien, and directed by O’Brien for whom this was a passion project, the love shows in the film they craft. Having not read the book, this reviewer cannot compare but can tell that the team behind the film put a lot of love and attention in building realistic (or as realistic as can be given the supernatural elements) characters who have worries, cares, issues, and hopes. They put some of these characters in unbelievable situations and let things unfold naturally. The film amps up the supernatural elements slowly until the full reveal, creating a tension and curiosity that work and keep the viewer’s attention.
The cast for the leads was carefully chosen and works great together. In the lead of John Wayne Cleaver, the appropriately named sociopathic yet controlled teen who finds himself the hero, is Max Records who some may recognize as the lead in Where The Wild Things Are. Records turns in an appropriately cold performance, showing little emotions until fear kicks in. In the part of Crowley, Max’s elderly neighbor is a delightful Christopher Lloyd who is unafraid to show his character’s aging as well as taking his young neighbor on. He shows his usual fantastic range and gives a gutsy performance that makes the film. In the part of John’s mortician mother April, Laura Fraser shows concern for her son, for his life, and for his future. Her character’s maternal instinct comes through even when she may not be doing what some would consider is best.
She shows the stress raising a potential serial killer can put on a person as well as the fear of having failed. The cast in I Am Not a Serial Killer is very strong all around, pulling the viewer in and keeping them interested. The supernatural being in the story is designed by the very talented Toby Froud who creates here a being that is understated at times, yet creepy and surprising once it shows itself. This creature and special effects are brought to the screen by the capable hands of William Todd-Jones, Ben Curry, and Froud. These special effects are supported by visual effects by Emma Rooney, Richard Blackburn, and Shelly Buckley. All of them come together to create effective and properly gooey effects.
I Am Not a Serial Killer may be a teenager led story but it’s enjoyable for adults, genre fans or not, for its story, creature, and the great performances. The film is bloody while definitely teen friendly (to some). It’s not overly scary but the story is engrossing and suspenseful, making it an enjoyable, entertaining film.