SXSW 2016: ‘I Am Not A Serial Killer’ will leave your jaw on the floor

I Am Not A Serial Killer

I Am Not A Serial Killer, an adaptation of a Dan Wells’ novel of the same name, is the perfect mix of horror and suspense. It’s a gripping and taut story of small-town murders and the unbelievable monsters who commit them, as well as a character study about a boy just trying to figure out life. It might also be the best thriller in years.

There is a darkness in all of us. Every single person walking this Earth has a voice in their head that steers them towards the darkest possible timeline, and it’s on each of us as individuals to make the decision not to follow its lead. Most never even consider it, but John (Max Records), the character at the center of I Am Not A Serial Killer, is not most people. He’s a death-obsessed teenager living in a quiet American town whose worst trait is his own self-awareness. John knows he’s not like other people. He hears the darkness calling and he allows himself to consider the possible outcomes, but he never follows through. He’s not a murderer, but by his own admission he does contemplate killing, and that is more than enough to make him worried for those around him.

From the very beginning of I Am Not A Serial Killer, John and the rest of the residents in his small town are in shock over a string of seemingly related murders. Someone—or some thing—is killing people and mutilating their bodies. To make matters worse, the killer appears to be taking trophies from his victims, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason for their choices. One body is missing a kidney, while another is missing an arm. John believes he can use his self-taught understand of criminal pathology to uncover the person responsible, and he spends the majority of the film searching for clues. When he unsuspectingly stumbles upon the truth behind the crimes, even John cannot believe what is unfolding in his home town.

The finale of the film differs from the one found in Dan Wells’ original novel, but the author has approved of the change. The story builds and builds into a wonderful climax that no one will see coming, and then delivers just enough of an epilogue to leave you wanting more. Not more of the same necessarily, but rather more of John and the universe he inhabits. I Am Not A Serial Killer reveals just enough to light your imagination ablaze, but don’t get your hopes up for a sequel because no such plans exist (nor has one been written).

Giving new meaning to the idea that it takes one to know one, Billy O’Brien’s I Am Not A Serial Killer is an incredibly grounded mix of Rear Window and The Twilight Zone that works on every level. Max Records delivers a powerful turn as John, and he’s supported by a talented cast including Christopher Lloyd, Laura Fraser and Karl Geary. To say anything more would be to spoil what is undoubtedly one of the year’s most surprising films, so just know supporting this film means supporting originality in film, and that is something we need more of in 2016.