I Am Not A Serial Killer: A Sociopathic Film Adaptation


Released March 13, 2016 at the South By Southwest Film Festival, I Am Not A Serial Killer follows John Wayne Cleaver (Max Records: Where the Wild Things Are 2009), a reclusive teen who has all the markers of a potentially sociopathic serial killer. When an actual serial killer starts killing off his townspeople, John becomes obsessed with not only finding the killer, but relating to him/her as well. Based on eponymous novel by Dan Wells, is Irish director Billy O’Brien’s (Isolation 2006) film worth your time? Let’s look at a few things first and then determine if it is or not.

Let’s start with the casting. Max Records does a great job, making the character of John Wayne Cleaver intriguing enough to hold your attention throughout the film’s entire runtime. He certainly seemed to have a lot of fun at playing an emotionless shell that is on the brink of going over the edge, spending most of his time trying to participate in “normal” activities so that he can keep his psychopathic tendencies at bay. His performance is rather chilling and is definitely the gas that keeps this vehicle in motion. Being a giant fan of Christopher Lloyd, I initially assumed that it would be him that would stole the show, but it’s definitely Max’s portrayal that kept me hanging on until the very end.

Interpreting a novel for the big screen is a giant task on its own. I can only assume, not having read the novel, that there was a vital piece of it lost in translation. I imagine that a character that mainly lives in his own head would have quite a bit that couldn’t be portrayed properly in a film setting… at the very least, not without having a ton of voice over narration throughout the movie. This brings me to my next qualm with this project. The film itself, lacking background noise and music, comes off as extremely emotionless. Just because the main character is a sociopath doesn’t mean the movie has to be as well. I totally get the tone that they were trying to go for but it comes with risks. Unfortunately, these risks didn’t pay off.

The one thing this movie did do for me was spark an interest in the book. I would love to discover what was left out of the feature film and find out what caused the book to spawn an entire series. I did not find that answer within the movie. There wasn’t anything that made me to feel as if the story needed to go on. To be honest, I think it could have stopped halfway through. I didn’t hate it yet I didn’t love it, either. I feel like I tolerated it enough so that I could see where it went. Where did it go? Was it worth it?

All in all, as I sat in suspense waiting for the big climax, I was left feeling underwhelmed. “That’s the big explanation?” “I sat here for what felt like three hours for it to end up like this?” These are the thoughts I had exiting this film. I would love to just give away what the filmmakers consider a twist and save all of you some time. However, I am not going to do that. I am just going to hope that you heed my warning and settle for the book. Mind you, I haven’t even read it, but I’m sure it is better experience than this.


I would like to leave this piece of advice for anyone thinking of making a film adaption of a book. When considering making a popular book in to a movie, sometimes it is best to leave well enough alone. Not all stories can be translated well. That doesn’t depreciate the value of the original product. The original book series has probably earned its fame. Sadly, this will not be the next Potter-esque phenomenon.

About Preston Holt

At 5 years old i was catapulted in to the horror genre and have had no desire to ever leave it. I'm 26 years old with a great sense of humor and a thirst for the horror industry that just will never be quenched. I have a horror review site of my own called cabinintheweb reviews and when I'm not writing about, or watching, horror films, I am spending time with my spouse and my animals.

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