Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its sixth year in October! Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers, I have once again compiled a list counting down to my favorite horror film released since last October and covered in this here AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Some of these films might be new to you since there isn’t a lot of horror in theaters these days. That said, there were more on this list that DID have a theatrical run than in previous years which means the horror genre does seem to be on the upswing. Some of these films have only seen the light of day on Video On Demand or simply go straight to DVD/BluRay or digital download.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year since October 1st, 2015 (which happens to be the birthday of this little column five years ago!) and worked and reworked the list until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each post that is worth nothing or missed being on the list by a little bit for those who can’t get enough horror.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know how you liked the film I chose, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, come up with your own list…let’s go!
I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER (2016)Directed by Billy O'Brien
Written by Christopher Hyde, Billy O'Brien, from the novel by Dan Wells
Starring Christopher Lloyd, Laura Fraser, Max Records, Karl Geary, Tony Papenfuss, Bruce Bohne, Matt Roy, William Todd-Jones, James Gaulke, Michael Paul Levin, Tim Russell, Dee Noah, Dane Stauffer, Elizabeth Belfiori, Christina Baldwin
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
Mixing deep psychological conflict with a supernatural entity is not an easy task, but I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER does so in a memorable and masterful sort of way.
Max Records plays John Wayne Cleaver, son of the local mortician April (BREAKING BAD’s Laura Fraser) and budding serial killer. At least, that’s what John thinks he is as he has all of the symptoms that lead to becoming a someone who murders others without remorse; bed-wetting, fire-setting, animal-torturing, and a morbid curiosity for gruesome and otherwise unsettling subject matter. John sees a counselor Dr. Neblin (Karl Geary) and the two have an open relationship where John talks about his feelings, or lack thereof. Being an outsider, though, has its benefits, as John sees things that others don’t and when people start dying in his small town at a rapid rate, John begins to suspect the kindly old man next door (Christopher Lloyd) of the wrong doings. But is the old guy a serial killer or something far worse? Hint: he’s far worse.
What makes I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER such a compelling story is that as a straight up psychological thriller, this is a top notch story as it is fascinating to see the world through John’s eyes. Actor Records does a great job of emoting that cold, vacant but pained look of someone who is trying his hardest to not be what he, in his mind, is destined to be. Seeing John interact with bullies and his outcast friend in school is fascinating; a captivating scene occurs at the school dance when a bully approaches him and John turns the tables and scares thee shit out of him simply by telling him what he is thinking about at that particular moment. The family drama is never over the top, but simply states the facts as well as Fraser makes what could be a clichéd role as a single mom struggling to make ends meet and make things nice for her troubled son into something much more textured and nuanced. The first half of this film, though somewhat reminiscent of DEXTER-THE TEENAGE YEARS, really does captivate.
But the latter half, where we see that something rather bizarre is occurring in John’s world and it has to do with the old guy next door turning into some kind of slime creature and eating the hearts of people in the city. Using what he knows in his “training” to become a serial killer, John is able to counter Lloyd’s elderly monster character at every turn. This dangerous cat and mouse game is thrilling given what we have learned about John in the first half and compounded when the supernatural elements are introduced. Even the ending, which is simple and rather straight-forward, has a sort of sweetness to it, despite the fact that it involves a pile of bodies and a horrifying, black and slimy creature.
I am fascinated by the way I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER unfolds. Filmed in a grainy, 70’s style manner, I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER has a wonderful handling of the intricacies and turmoil of being a flawed human being in ones teenage years. The film takes place at a moment where John could fall either way—serial killer or normal person, and handles that delicate balance gracefully and effectively. It’s a story that is unique as it also is able to juggle both emotional drama and supernatural danger with an even hand. There aren’t many films out there that are able to do this, but I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER, with it’s fantastic cast and simple, but nuanced story achieves it eloquently.
#30 – I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER
#31 – SOUTHBOUND
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 15 years & AICN HORROR for 5. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller and on his new website collecting posts for AICN HORROR as well as all of the most recent updates on his various comic book projects on MLMillerWrites.com.
Look for Johnny Destructo, Stephen Andrade, Christian DiBari, and my own ramblings about random horror films on CultPop/PoptardsGo and Ain’t It Cool on AICN HORROR’s CANNIBAL HORRORCAST Podcast every other Thursday (or so…)!