How to Be a Serial Killer
How to Be a Serial Killer is a ten step program designed by Mike Wilson (Dameon Clark). He insists that if you follow his fool proof steps, you’ll be better than Dahmer, Manson, or Bundy. Sound interesting? It was. A little.
The film plays as a documentary. The scenes are separated by Mike speaking at a self-help workshop, detailing each of his steps that keep him a successful, and discreet murderer. Some of his rules include never killing the old, children, or mentally handicapped. Never stealing anything from your victims. And never killing anyone you personally know. In between these little sermons, camera’s follow Mike and interview those around him. This includes his girlfriend Abagail (Mad Men’s Laura Regan) and his newly found protege Bart (500 Days of Summer‘s Matthew Gray Gubler). Bart’s sad life as an employee at a video rental store encourages Mike to approach him and enroll him in his personal serial killer school.
It’s difficult to know how to approach such a subject. At times, it seems director Luke Ricci (this is his directorial debut) was channeling Sam Raimi, trying to balance humor with disturbing subject matter. And he managed to do this most of the time. There were definitely laugh-out-loud moments, but I was uncomfortable laughing since I felt more uneasy about the characters’ situations. Mike seems like a loose cannon, with the ability to go off on anyone any time, and you won’t be sure where his priorities lie. Ever. The quality of acting is great, especially Gubler. The film lulls a little when returning to Mike at his workshop speech, but in between is actually quite compelling.
While the film is overall entertaining, it leaves much to be desired. Ricci, who also wrote the screenplay, focused more on zany, unconventional humor than developing his characters. Abagail is the very definition of a flat character, which makes her boring, and her plot lines uninteresting. It turns out, thanks to the DVD extras, lots of scenes that provided valuable background information were cut. They would have added immensely to the film, since we find out virtually nothing about these characters’ back stories. And when you’re dealing with a serial killer, that’s pretty important. Low-budget production values are also distracting (the low-key score sounds like it came from a porn film, but you can get past it after a few minutes). However, there’s a great a tone, decent pacing, and a glimmer of promise for Ricci. Given the right script and budget, he could do some great things.