By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
When most of us hear ‘sociopath’, we think of somebody truly, violently inhuman, a serial killer in proclivity if not fact. Well, that’s not really the case for most sociopaths roaming around us.
Although nobody would be surprised to hear if Shkreli killed a homeless person
In I Am Not a Serial Killer, the very serial killer-named John Wayne Cleaver (Max Records) is most definitely a sociopath, but has a system of rules which keep him from killing, even though he’s more than a little curious. He’s not a bad sort, though, helping out old Mr. Crowley (Christopher Lloyd) as his body starts to fail him. That curiosity gets pushed in a slightly different direction when a serial killer begins to stalk his small Minnesotan town, and he’s not sure whether he’s drawn to stopping him, or joining him.
Everyone, Max Records is all growned up and pretty great. His scene meticulously explaining just how he sees a bully who is confronting him (as a thing, like a cardboard box) and what he’d like to do to him (cut him open and see what’s inside, like a cardboard box) while smiling and assuring him he’s got a set of rules he follows so he doesn’t do just that is masterclass- funny, scary, and strangely cathartic.
Max’s imagination has gone down some darker paths since this.
Christopher Lloyd is also great, showing naked vulnerability and age which may or may not be just a cover for a vicious animal nature that make Max’s burgeoning sociopathic feelings look like the child’s play it is. No real spoiler here, Lloyd has a hell of a meaty role and makes you wonder where he’s been hiding the last several years (besides lame commercials, that is).
He’s not been the same since Marty died.
First timer Billy O’Brien directs with poise and confidence- he knows exactly what he wants to do and uses well-framed and crafted wintry small-town imagery and excellent sound design to wield ruthless control of tone- you’ll jump a few times at least. The horrific, Hannibal-like murder visions that may or may not be just that he builds are masterful as well, brought to oily, awful life through thoroughly grotesque and impressive practical effects. This is a debut film, from script to screen, which feels like it was made by a genre master, not somebody taking his first, ahem, stab at directing. Bravo.
There’s a romantic subplot which on the charitable end is underdeveloped, and on the uncharitable end pure nonsense. There’s no reason why any girl is so into this obviously off kid, especially when he makes creepy school shooter-like threats right in front of her. Maybe it’s not a bad thing the film just kind of forgets about her in the third act.
I Am Not a Serial Killer has got a lot more going on than meets the eye, and impressively carries off just about all of it. Plus, you’ll never look at Doc Brown the same way again.
I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for therapist visits
Take a Drink: for talk of rules
Take a Drink: whenever somebody says ‘normal’
Do a Shot: for grisly autopsies