I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER **** USA / Ireland 2016 Dir: Billy O’Brien. 97 mins
Distinctively shot in 16mm in wintry Minnesota by Ken Loach’s cinematographer Robbie Ryan, this evocative adaptation of the young adult novel has a striking, complex lead performance by Max Records. Ostracised at school as a “freak” and harbouring a fascination with serial killers, the 16 year old outcast is determined to avoid fulfilling what appears to be his psychopathic destiny, particularly when his small town is host to a series of gruesome murders.
A novel, beguiling riff on the clichéd origins-of-a-serial-killer framework, this melds gruesome physical detail with an understated streak of gallows humour and a vivid portrait of a credibly detached young man struggling to retain self-control: “I have rules to keep me normal and keep others safe”. As a Blake-quoting elderly neighbour, an uncharacteristically subtle Christopher Lloyd has never been so sinister (or, indeed, human) on-screen, and his scenes with Records are the highlight of another impressive genre piece from the talented director of ISOLATION. The narrative’s left-field turn in the final 10 minutes provides a visceral finale (and has led to lazy comparisons to DONNIE DARKO) that viewers will either love or hate…but either way, it does not detract from what has gone before.
Review by Steven West