If you toned done the extremities of Man Bites Dog and wrapped it up with some infomercial style bookends, you might wind up with something similar to writer/director Luke Ricci's How To Be A Serial Killer.
The film follows a man named Mike Wilson (Dameon Clark) who, on the surface at least, seems to be a fine upstanding citizen aside from his one rather hard to ignore flaw - he's a serial killer. When we meet him, he's heading into a local video store to rent a movie for the night. Here he sees a kindred spirit in a man named Bart (Matthew Gray Gubler) who works the counter and is repeatedly harassed by some of his more obnoxious customers. In a rather brazen move, Mike approaches Bart and strikes up a conversation with him about wanting to kill people like the customer he just dealt with. This leads to a fast friendship where Mike reveals his true nature to Bart and introduces him to his various steps he'll need to follow in order to successfully become a serial killer. As the two go about their work, Mike teaches Bart in the ways of avoiding police, getting rid of any messy evidence that might put someone on his trail, how to kill people and how to get away from a crime scene without bringing attention to yourself.
As the teacher enlightens the student, things get heated when Mike's girlfriend, Abigail (Laura Regan), figures out what her man has been up to all these weeks hanging out with his new friend. Seeing no other option, they soon take her out of the equation all together but of course, their actions soon start to catch up with them and tensions rise...
How To Be A Serial Killer borrows a bit from Man Bites Dog in that it twists the faux-documentary format around to meet its needs and also borrows a bit from Showtime's Dexter in that it's chief killer follows a specific code that mandates his kills help society. The film interjects expert commentary in the form of video interview clips with a psychiatrist named Doctor Goldberg (George Wyner) and interjects even more of Mike's televangelist/infomercial segments which leads to some interesting juxtapositions during the course of the film but this doesn't stop things from dragging a bit in the middle part of the picture. Some of the jokes work, some of them don't, though the picture does start to become noticeably more serious in the last half hour or so and as an average, most of the humor in the film is mediocre.
What the picture does have going for it are some interesting characters. Mike's frustration with the world around him becomes increasingly understandable as the picture plays out. You get why he doesn't like his life and while it doesn't justify his killing, it does at least set the character up with enough believability that you can buy Dameon Clark in the role. Likewise, Bart's given enough meat on his bones that you can easily see why he'd be drawn to Mike. Bart seems to suffer from some self esteem issues and Mike's charisma and bold attitude speak to his impressionable new friend on a level that makes perfect sense to the audience. Matthew Gray Gubler does a fine job with the role and he and Clark have a good chemistry together in this film.
Ricci's film is very nicely shot and the attention and care put into the cinematography help things considerably, as do the effects. When the blood does flow in the film it does so with some intentional shock value. This can sometimes seem jarring when placed against an often times humorous context but more often than not it works. Ricci's got some serious talent behind the camera, it does show here despite the film's flaws. Some of the dialogue does feel a bit forced but most of it flows fairly naturally, and if the script borrows a bit here and there, at least there's enough fresh material and originality worked into the story that we can overlook that. Not a perfect film by any stretch, but How To Be A Serial Killer gets points for trying something semi-new even if it only partially succeeds.
How To Be A Serial Killer looks quite good in this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. The movie was shot on digital video so it won't look like film but given the medium this transfer is fine. Colors look nice, black levels are reasonably strong and there are no problems to note regarding compression artifacts or edge enhancement. Some mild aliasing is present but it isn't overly distracting. For a low budget picture, the image quality is just fine.
The sole audio option on this release is a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track that, while not perfect, isn't half bad. There are a few too many times where the music is considerably louder than anything else in the mix so be prepared to reach for your remote now and again to make some adjustments, but that complaint aside there's nothing else wrong here. The dialogue is easy to understand and follow and the effects and score are all clear enough.
There isn't a ton of extra content here and a director commentary would have been very welcome given the film's ideas and technique, but Monterey Media have included a batch of nineteen deleted scenes (18:40 in total) that you can watch individually or through a play all button. There's enough material here that, if you enjoyed the movie at least, it's worth skimming through. A lot of the material that's in here is 'interview' bits with Mike, where he talks about his life but there's also some extra kill bits in here as well as some interview clips with Abigail that flesh her character out just a little bit more. There's also a 'Body Count' bit that, when you select it, gives you some amusing and genuinely interesting statistics about the movie in a text scroll. Aside from that there are trailers for a few other Monterey Media releases, menus and chapter stops.
Luke Ricci gets an A for effort and shows a lot of promise even if How To Be A Serial Killer might not blow your socks off. The film takes its concept and stretches it out too long for its own good and as such, suffers from some pacing problems but the stand out moments shine bright enough that the movie is still worth a look for fans of quirky, indy fare. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.