A NICE NETFLIX SURPRISE:
So I'm perusing my Netflix queue the other night looking for something that can hold my attention well enough to keep me from falling asleep, and I decide, "hey, I'm in the mood for a decent indie-horror flick."
I scan the titles and image thumbnails and even read a few descriptions. You know, business as usual. Nothing to write home about, so on and so forth, until I come across this one little oddity:
I Am Not A Serial Killer.
The description Netflix provided was fairly provocative for a change: "A small-town teenager with homicidal impulses must embrace his dark side to stop a newly arrived serial killer, who might not even be human."
Well, I think. It isn't much to go on, but it sounds like it could be good.
Without looking to see who the actors are (with indie films, I've rarely heard of them anyways), I decide to give it a chance.
And to put it succinctly, I was wowed.
ANOTHER SURPRISE: CHRISTOPHER-FREAKIN'-LLOYD
For the first 10 minutes or so of the film I was sort of cautiously optimistic. The acting wasn't terrible, the plot seemed to be unfolding decently, and the atmosphere was pretty cool. Plus it had Laura Fraser in it as the main protagonist's mother. Breaking Bad fans will recognize her as the actress who portrayed the jittery Lydia Rodart-Quayle in season 5 (apparently she's also in some series called Neverwhere that fans like, and some drama, Lip Service that's apparently a big deal... I dunno, I just know her from Breaking Bad).
But then, around 11 minutes in, I was astounded (and elated) to see who else but Doc Brown himself! And just in case you are an 80's-cinema neophyte, I'm here referring to one of the best supporting actors of all time, Mr. Christopher Lloyd in the flesh (er, well, in the celluloid, at least).
I don't want to ruin anything by giving away too much of his role is in the film, but let's just say it's a significant one. And while I know some die-hard Back to The Future fans are going to want to tar and feather me for even thinking this, but even so, I honestly believe this may be the best acting I've ever seen from him.
Maybe it's because I've just never seen Christopher Lloyd act creepy before. He's always either been a zany weirdo (à la his role in the Taxi television series), or a lovable goof (i.e., Doc Brown), or some oddball mystical trope (see: every kid's film he ever starred in after Back To The Future). But not in this one. Not in I Am Not A Serial Killer. There is absolutely nothing cute about him in this moody supernatural thrill-romp. -And he freakin' pulls it off, the creepiness, even at the ripe old age of 78.
A TIC FOR THE PLUS COLUMN: A UNIQUE PLOT:
Now, again, I don't want to give away too much, but I DO think I should give some sort of generic plot rundown... just to further pique your interest...
The general gist is, a mid-western teenager from a broken home (portrayed by former child actor, Max Records) is a diagnosed sociopath (but paradoxically also has a heart-of-gold... if this sounds unbelievable, it's because psychologically speaking, this is both impossible and absurd... nevertheless there is no suspension of disbelief required, as the script and acting are both so nuanced that the film somehow manages to pull it off). His name is John Wayne Cleaver (I wonder who that's in homage to?) and his greatest fear is that he will one day become a serial killer.
In order to stave off his homicidal impulses, John Wayne has developed a set of rules to keep his bloodlust in check, and he mostly lives up to them. This careful regiment is threatened, however, when the morgue he works at (with his mother and aunt) starts getting a surfeit of locally-murdered corpses. His curiosity quickly turns to obsession, and said obsession pulls John Wayne Cleaver into a taut cat-and-mouse game with the person (or thing!) wreaking his / her / it's murderous havoc all around town.
WHY IT'S A MUST-SEE:
The great thing about this film, I thought, is that it doesn't rush itself. The plot-points all just kind of gently unfold until you are totally and completely engrossed. There are no cheap jump-scares, and none of the main characters are flat. Basically it's just an all-around decent flick, and one that knows how to pace itself without becoming tedious or boring.
Plus, Christopher Lloyd steals the show. And, well, it's just incredibly satisfying to be able to say that. I've always felt like he could do more as an actor if ever given the chance, and it seems that in his old age he has finally thrown caution to the wind and decided to act for mere love of the craft. Kudos to him for stepping out of his comfort zone, because it makes this film all the more enjoyable.
Another thing worth mentioning is that you're never really 100% sure "what" is doing the killing (although some fairly obvious clues are given IMO), and yet this doesn't take away from the film at all. You don't feel let down by not knowing. It's a great example of showing-and-not-telling, really.
All in all, this was the most fun I've had watching an indie-thriller / horror movie since 2014's It Follows, and I highly recommend it.