Fantasia Festival: I Am Not A Serial Killer (Canadian Premiere 2016)

Next up in Fantasia International Film Festival is an absolute treat. I Am Not a Serial Killer is a little independent film. What does make it even more special is that it was hosted by  Christopher Lloyd. Are we even surprised at this point? The roster at the 20th annual Fantasia Festival has been incredible and the last comment from the audience during the Q&A wraps it up perfectly. When we think back of Christopher Lloyd’s career in over 200 movies, a lot of those roles have never been attempted again and he is irreplaceable.

Fantasia Festival

Christopher Lloyd deserved the standing ovation he got and the feeling in the theatre of hearing him talk about his career was enlightening. After so many roles, we can still hear how grateful he was for each role that he has taken on.

I Am Not A Serial Killer (2016)

I am not a serial killer

Director: Billy O’Brien

Cast: Christopher Lloyd, Max Records, Laura Fraser, Karl Geary

In a small Midwestern town, a troubled teen with homicidal tendencies must hunt down and destroy a supernatural killer whilst keeping his own inner demons at bay.-IMDB

I Am Not A Serial Killer is an adaptation from a series of novels by Dan Wells (one that I don’t know much about before).  However, it has a really intriguing premise. Our main character is John, played by Max Records. If that name rings a bell but you can’t pinpoint him, he was the little boy in Where the Wild Things Are. In many ways, I Am Not A Serial Killer is a character study. We learn about John (Max Records) and on the other side, we learn about his neighbor Mr. Crowley, played by Christopher Lloyd through his observations. At the same time, this movie is also an extremely slow movie. It takes its time to set up, execute and build everything it needs for us to connect with these characters. At all times, there is a sense of uneasy even under its bizarre humor. One of the most notable parts of the movie in the opening was the music: something like rock and alternative or whatnot. During different parts of the movie, it also cues in and then we mix it with a lot of silent moments.

I am not a serial killer

 I Am Not A Serial Killer has a small cast. In fact, the other players such as Laura Fraser who plays the mother and Karl Geary who plays the psychiatrist is there but never enough to take away from the main journey of John Cleaver played by Max Records. It is amazing to see that the young adult that Max Records has become and how his acting has matured as well. His performance in Where the Wild Things Are was quite enjoyable. In this one, it is a completely different beast. One that probably would be hard to imagine. In many ways, John Cleaver is like a normal teenager except right from the first scene, we already realize that his is fighting a battle against an obsession with death. It isn’t his death but rather one where he stops himself from the desire to kill. His psychiatrist early in the movie in one of the sessions says that he has the predictors of being a serial killer, something like a diagnosed sociopath or something along those lines. Can you even imagine what it is like to fight the thought of being a serial killer, trying every day to be a nice person and feeling like you have no feelings? In fact, Max Records does a great performance in showing the struggle. His performance doesn’t end there because he soon learns that his neighbor might be a serial killer and wholeheartedly sets out to stop him. Can you see the conflict in his character already? However serious this movie does become, it never forgets to put in these random humor areas. One of the best is when John Cleaver explains why he compliments and smiles to a bully at a party. It is funny and creepy all at the same time.

Christopher Lloyd

The neighbor Mr. Crowley is played by Christopher Lloyd. His character shows that people have different layers, whether its physically or mentally. On the outside, Mr Crowley is a silly man that is completely in love. He is the sweet grandfather that still does all the gestures. However, he holds a deep secret and we soon learn that he is a serial killer and causing a havoc in the small town that hasn’t seen such frequent killings ever. No one knows who he is except John but they also have a good relationship. Mr. Crowley’s character is learned through the eyes of John Cleaver. We see what he does and his personality and the conversations they have in different scenes. Just like Max Record’s character is conflicting, Mr. Crowley’s also is. In fact, perhaps there is some kind of parallel meant to be created.

I am not a serial killer

I Am Not A Serial Killer is a movie that will be interpreted differently to many. In fact, it is a slow paced movie. Some might not have the patience to see what happens. The ending itself is a shocking one. It turns the movie around. Although it never is talked about explicitly, as the audience, we get to see how both of these characters are quite similar but also opposite. We actually might catch the nuances of their characters even before they realize it in the movie. Especially as we watch John Cleaver’s character struggle, in many ways, we might ask ourselves why he cares so much to stop the killer, isn’t that feelings or is it to fulfill his obsession with death? The main question that will keep the audience intrigued is the clever pacing of never quite letting us in on the secret and revealing anyone’s intentions. We keeping doubting whether there is a danger.

I Am Not A Serial Killer is a serious movie injected with dark humor. It has great performances all around specifically with Max Records and Christopher Lloyd. The setting definitely emphasizes the isolation. It is for those ready to study and follow a character as it develops throughout the story and takes us for a dangerous adventure of following a killer, one that no one would suspect is any danger. This may be the hidden gem of 2016.

Where The Wild Things Are (2009)

Based a popular children’s storybook, Where the Wild Things are, this movie had me wondering if it would be good.  A part of me had a bit of doubts on the turnout and I ended up hearing a lot of mixed reviews, but I managed to get on Blu-ray at a bargain price. This gave me the opportunity to pick it up.  Plus, its adaptation from a book and I love to check out those flicks all the time!

where the wild things are posterDirector: Spike Jonze

Cast: Max Records, Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini, Catherine O`Hara, Paul Dano, Forest Whitaker, Chris Cooper, Lauren Ambrose

Max (Max Records) is a little boy who has a wild imagination.  He builds things and creates worlds for himself.  After being bullied by his sister Claire and her friends, and then being scolded by his mother (Catherine Keener) for a tantrum he pulled due to her paying more attention to her boyfriend, he runs away from home.  As he runs away in his wolf costume, his imagination takes him across the ocean to another land where there resides Wild Things. As he spies on them in the distance, one of the Wild Things Carol (James Gandolfini) was pulling a tantrum and destroying his family’s living spaces because he thought that KW (Lauren Ambrose) had left him.  When Max reveals himself, he eventually convinces them to not eat him because he had magical powers that could help them shield away sadness and keep everyone together, and they in turn make him their king.  However, as he leads them to build Carol’s dream home, he realizes that there are deeper issues between the Wild Things: Judith (Catherine O’Hara), Ira (Forest Whitaker), Alexander (Paul Dano), Douglas (Chris Cooper), The Bull (Michael Berry Jr.).  Sometimes, there are things that he can’t settle with just doing wild and rash decisions.

where the wild things are

Right off, this movie confused me a bit.  It was set in a really dark tone.  There seemed to be a lot of random things going on and seeing as I don’t remember much about the original story book it was based on, I sat there look at Max doing his wild thing in his wolf creature and for a good part of the beginning, I started getting really depressed.  However, now that I think about it, I really think thats what it was trying to achieve because Max felt like one day he was going to fade away, his energy would fade away and he feared being left alone.   So he would pull his tantrums to try to remind his mom and his sister of his existence.  It was the way he chose to express himself. Running into the imaginary world was still a whole lot of dark tones visually everywhere, but there was a sense of freedom that was there.  Maybe freedom is not the right word, its more like this world brought him hope as he brought hope to the Wild Things.  At the same time, he got the care and attention that he wanted but at the same time, he learned that it wasn’t always fair, there was always going to be people who cared but didn’t always show it equally to everyone around them.  There are lessons that Max had to learn and in his little excursion to this imaginary world created in his mind, he sorted out those problems and he learned a little bit more.

Where-the-Wild-Things-Are king

This movie was a mix of human characters and the one focus was Max who is a real boy, but it matched it with puppeteers (from what I read).  The Wild Things creatures were super weird but yet they were done really well.  The characters were created in a way that as the movie moved on, the characters developed, especially Max and Carol and I grew to be attached to them.  For me, it was a very subconscious thing.  All I remember was thinking this was a super weird movie and just crazy depressing but by the end of the movie, I knew that I had laughed with them and the characters had touched my heart because in any imaginary world, we need to leave it eventually.  When Max had to leave to face his real life, I was crying pretty damn hard. I hadn’t realized I had gotten so drawn in until then.

where the wild things are maxI have never wanted to read a bedtime story book more after watching this.  I went searching up to see if I could find an ebook version but there wasn’t.  As much as this source material was meant for children, I’m not exactly sure this one is.  This one hits the dark and heavy area.  Its as much an adventure as it is a path to growing up.  Max comes to realizations through the characters that he’s imagined. This world and Wild Things was where he could be innocent and not worry about his problems.

where the wild things are 1

However, I love movies with dark tones and this was adapted in a unique way, even though at parts it was depressing, it also was done beautifully.  A story where Max wanders into his imagination as a child and walks out of it grown up, simply by understanding it a little bit more, and that in itself is somewhat bittersweet.  It tugs at our heartstrings and brings in some beautiful and fun moments but also mixes in some heartbreaks.  Thats what it feels like to have to let your childhood innocence fade away a little.  I recommend this movie however with huge warning that you really have to be ready to accept that its not a children’s movie and you have to appreciate the dark tone that they use.