John Wayne Cleaver (Max Records) is a teenager living in a Northern American small town and having problems, so much so that he needs to see a therapist, Dr Nebulin (Karl Geary), who is in his life to ensure the boy does not become a serial killer, or that's what John believes he is there for at any rate. The trouble with that is, it seems to make him worry at his psychological issues all the more, and each time he is congratulated for not acting on his sociopathic impulses, it feels as if they are only growing stronger within his mind, which alienates him even further. His single mother April (Laura Fraser), a coroner who performs autopsies he likes to sit in on, is concerned, but is powerless to prevent his slide into madness - only what if he isn't mad at all?
The reason to ask that is there appears to be a serial killer at loose in the community, and John is fairly sure it is not himself who has been murdering citizens and stealing a body part from them in the process, so if it is not him, who can it be? In truth, the film perhaps showed its cards a little early, rather than sustaining the mystery, so within around twenty minutes or so we were given our suspects, then all of a sudden we were told outright who the violent criminal was (or shown, anyway), indicating this was not some slasher flick with a twist at the end since we were already well aware of the culprit when the twist arrived with such undue haste. This did offer John the time to spend the rest of the plot trying to work out a solution.
Initially you think I Am Not a Serial Killer was going to be sticking with the real world, a dark drama which took its protagonist down into very murky situations, but nevertheless ones that could conceivably occur in actuality. However, fans of the author Dan Wells would be aware that in his young adult series of books, of which this was based on the first, it did not necessarily play out that way, and the supernatural was going to intrude at some point along the journey, so it was that the villain is revealed as a horror movie creature hiding in plain sight as nobody suspects them when outwardly they are unassuming at the most, and mundane at the least. Hence this is the perfect disguise should you be planning a series of killings.
But don't do that, and don't dwell on the possibilities either, because John does it and look at all the good it does him: absolute zero. In the book, our unlikely hero tended more towards the criminal behaviour, or at least thoughts, more than he does in the film, possibly down to director Billy O'Brien wishing to keep him sympathetic, more so than a character who entertains thoughts about violence all day would without being a bad guy, that was. Although it was worth pointing out that if we had been privy to these internal monologues then it would be a far more bogged down experience, and overall there was a sense of isolation, both geographically and psychologically, that operated in the movie's favour, albeit with the reservations that once we knew what was going on there were few surprises to be had.
The antagonist wanted to replace its own bits and pieces with humans' bits and pieces, which was all very well and true to the source, but it might have played better without the paranormal aspect, for it did come across as an unnecessary complication in what was otherwise a neatly observed tale of a small community under threat from a force few of them had any notion or experience of, when it came to that level of evil. The cast ranged from Records' well-portrayed and oddly blank angst, convincingly other, to Fraser as the normal American mom who he cannot sympathise with anymore, much less understand, and Christopher Lloyd showed up in a stellar late career turn as the old geezer neighbour who hides a secret of his own that renders him a lot creepier than anyone suspects. Lucy Lawton gave a good account of herself as the classmate carrying a torch for John that he cannot consider when he is so self-absorbed, and Anna Sundberg was amusingly sarky as his sister, but for all the clever performances there was always something off about the whole film, and not always in its favour - but not enough to wholly damage it, either. Music by Adrian Johnston (more than decent).
[Bulldog's Blu-ray has a bunch of featurettes, a demo and deleted scenes as extras in a very useful package for fans.]