A SERIAL KILLER’S GUIDE TO LIFE *** UK 2019 Dir: Staten Cousins Roe. 81 mins
Katie Brayben is a lowly shopworker who spends her evenings scrubbing the back of her ageing, senile mum when she gets home and clings on to the dream of going kite surfing in the Caribbean. Patronised by her peers in her dead-end seaside hometown, she is also addicted to lame self-help gurus. At one such event, she meets Poppy Roe, an eccentric on a mission to become famous by wiping out the most deserving elements of this self-improvement wankery. Both set off on a “voyage of self discovery” based on the proviso that “life is like a box of chocolates – the crappy ones get left behind”.
Set against the backdrop of banal weather reports and beautiful English countryside, this is another in a long line of road-trip serial killer movies (BUTTERFLY KISS, KALIFORNIA, etc.) though its biggest inspiration seems to be Ben Wheatley’s wonderful SIGHTSEERS, which deftly combined gallows humour and great character work on a level that this film struggles to approach. The targets are obvious and limited in impact: there’s a genuinely funny sequence involving the hapless perpetrators of “sound therapy” but an interlude with an ill-fated, tree-hugging “nature therapy” group outstays its welcome. Roe is fun as an ambitious self-styled vigilante violently acting out her long-held resentments and apologising before bludgeoning folks to death with rolling pins. And Brayben brings real heart to her downtrodden ordinary girl role – but neither have a huge amount to work with. Moreover, the gurus that the film repeatedly parodies are – and always have been – walking (unintentional) parodies to start with.
Review by Steven West