Goofy-Grim Comedy ‘I Am Not a Serial Killer’ Almost Bests Its Tired Subgenre


Serial killers are so rote these days, like plastic bags in trees, that we’ve gotten to the point where the serial killer is not a serial killer but an alien.

Based on Dan Wells’s novel, Billy O’Brien’s jokey I Am Not a Serial Killer hews close to John (Max Records, the babyfaced and now geeky-greasy urchin from Where the Wild Things Are), a Minnesota high schooler already diagnosed as a borderline sociopath, keeping his cool during a rash of unexplained killings. It doesn’t help that he lives in a funeral home run by his mother and aunt; the slow burbling of pink embalming fluid becomes the film’s sturdiest running gag.

Entertaining private serial-killer ideas of his own, John has his warped nose to the wind and, particularly aware of oddball clues, undertakes his own investigation, starting with a pair of missing kidneys. Soon enough, he sees inhuman things he can’t report for fear of health-services fallout.

O’Brien, whose 2005 debut, Isolation, made uproarious hay out of Irish zombie sheep, doesn’t bother trying to get inside John’s head (yuck), but, as is the fashion, plays the death obsession and corpse play as dry humor.

It’s not a riot, though the Midwest textures are sharp (especially for an Irish filmmaker in an entirely Irish production), and the idea of witnessing a killing spree from the p.o.v. of a town’s funeral home is full of rich discomfort. It’s the stuff of the sub-subgenre itself that gives you a boregasm.

I Am Not a Serial Killer

Directed by Billy O’Brien

IFC Midnight

Opens August 26, IFC Center