Last week Broadway Cinema once again played host to the Mayhem Film Festival, a celebration of horror and related movies. I am Not a Serial Killer was an excellent addition to the range of films on offer as an interesting, genre-bending movie.

Following the life of John, a teenager diagnosed as a psychopath, the film tracks a series of murders that have taken place in the vicinity of a small town in the American Midwest. John’s investigation of these events reveals a sinister supernatural element to the story, and the teenager finds himself getting in very deep.

The film is a brilliant, entertaining mix of thriller, horror-fantasy and comedy, which often had the audience laughing out loud. The difficulties John has in navigating a world that revolves around something he has no understanding of – emotions – provide an interesting, and often very funny, view of teenage life. But this also stretches further, and becomes a serious concept involved in the solving of the mystery and the climax of the film.

The presentation of John’s life is very realistic and believable, and somehow also relatable, despite his obsession with death and his identity as a psychopath. His dedication to his search for the truth, and the extreme lengths to which he will go to find the killer and stop these murders, show a very human element to his story, undermining the assumption that those who lack empathy are somehow less than human.

The film screening was followed by a short Q&A session with directors Billy O’Brien and Christopher Hyde, co-writers for the film’s adaptation from book to screen. They talked about the challenges of reworking the story from Dan Wells’ novel; they mentioned some of the changes made, and how much they enjoyed the experience of adapting the plot. This is a film made with love from a book both writers enjoyed – to the extent that O’Brien and Hyde’s online conversations became “too passionate for Skype to cope with”, resulting in long drives to talk face-to-face about the script. The result is a film you can tell the creators cared about.

Another challenge was the selling of the story to people who had not read the book. Bearing in mind the mix of genres the film uses, and the fact that the action revolves around two main characters, one who is 17 years old and the other who is 75, many people seemed to think it was a risk to take.

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The age gap is not an issue, though, either in story-line or in terms of the actors. Both O’Brien and Hyde agreed that Max Records (John) and Christopher Lloyd (Crowley) hit it off very quickly, soon talking about specific aspects of the film and characters like any actors passionate about their craft. The co-writers described the pair as “fantastic” to work with, and their onscreen interactions stay true to this level of care in their portrayals.

After a question from the audience, the co-writers revealed they would like to do a sequel – the books were a trilogy when they started preparations for the film, and the stories are now a series of six – but unfortunately it’s unlikely at this point in time (unless it’s ridiculously successful), due to the smaller-scale nature of the film. It’s a shame, since the story is clearly able to continue, and the world works brilliantly onscreen.

Verdict:

This excellent film cleverly bends the horror genre back on itself, incorporating elements of comedy seamlessly into its fabric to create an entertaining addition to the Mayhem line up. Definitely one to see.

Isobel Sheene

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Media courtesy of Floodland Pictures, and Youtube.

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