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Christopher Lloyd deserved the standing ovation he got and the feeling in the theatre of hearing him talk about his career was enlightening. After so many roles, we can still hear how grateful he was for each role that he has taken on.
I Am Not A Serial Killer is an adaptation from a series of novels by Dan Wells (one that I don’t know much about before). However, it has a really intriguing premise. Our main character is John, played by Max Records. If that name rings a bell but you can’t pinpoint him, he was the little boy in Where the Wild Things Are. In many ways, I Am Not A Serial Killer is a character study. We learn about John and on the other side, we learn about his neighbor Mr. Crowley, played by Christopher Lloyd through his observations. At the same time, this movie is also an extremely slow movie. It takes its time to set up, execute and build everything it needs for us to connect with these characters. At all times, there is a sense of uneasy even under its bizarre humor. One of the most notable parts of the movie in the opening was the music: something like rock and alternative or whatnot. During different parts of the movie, it also cues in and then we mix it with a lot of silent moments.
I Am Not A Serial Killer has a small cast. In fact, the other players such as Laura Fraser who plays the mother and Karl Geary who plays the psychiatrist are there but never enough to take away from the main journey of John. It is amazing to see that the young adult that Records has become and how his acting has matured as well. His performance in Where the Wild Things Are was memorable but in this one, it is a completely different beast, one that probably would be hard to imagine. In many ways, John Cleaver is like a normal teenager except right from the first scene, we already realize that he’s fighting a battle against an obsession with death. It isn’t his death but rather one where he stops himself from the desire to kill. His psychiatrist, early in the movie, in one of the sessions says that he has the predictors of being a serial killer, something like a diagnosed sociopath or something along those lines. Can you even imagine what it is like to fight the thought of being a serial killer, trying every day to be a nice person and feeling like you have no feelings? Records does a great job showing that struggle. His performance doesn’t end there because he soon learns that his neighbor might be a serial killer and wholeheartedly sets out to stop him. Can you see the conflict in his character already? However serious this movie does become, it never forgets to put in these random humor areas. One of the best is when Cleaver explains why he compliments and smiles to a bully at a party. It is funny and creepy all at the same time.
Mr. Crowley shows that people have different layers, whether its physically or mentally. On the outside, Crowley is a silly man that is completely in love. He is the sweet grandfather that still does all the familiar gestures. However, he holds a deep secret and we soon learn that he himself is a serial killer and causing havoc in the small town that has never seen such killings like this before. No one knows who he is except John but they also have a good relationship. Mr. Crowley’s character is learned through the eyes of Cleaver. We see what he does and his personality and the conversations they have in different scenes. Just like Record’s character is conflicting, so to is Mr. Crowley’s. In fact, perhaps there is a kind of parallel meant to be created.
I Am Not A Serial Killer is a movie that will be interpreted differently to many. In fact, it is a slow paced movie. Some might not have the patience to see what happens. The ending itself is a shocking one. It turns the movie around. Although it never is talked about explicitly, as the audience, we get to see how both of these characters are quite similar but also opposite. We actually might catch the nuances of their characters even before they realize it in the movie. Especially as we watch Cleaver’s character struggle, in many ways, we might ask ourselves why he cares so much to stop the killer, isn’t that feelings or is it to fulfill his obsession with death? The main question that will keep the audience intrigued is the clever pacing of never quite letting us in on the secret and revealing anyone’s intentions. We keeping doubting whether there is a danger.
I Am Not A Serial Killer is a serious movie injected with dark humor. It has great performances all around specifically with Max Records and Christopher Lloyd. The setting definitely emphasizes the isolation. It is for those ready to study and follow a character as it develops throughout the story and takes us for a dangerous adventure of following a killer, one that no one would suspect is any danger. This may be the hidden gem of 2016.
Director: Billy O'Brien
Cast: Christopher Lloyd, Max Records, Laura Fraser, Karl Geary