Writer/director Mark Vadik's Cyrus, or, if you prefer, Cyrus: Mind Of A Serial Killer (probably retitled to avoid confusion with the John C. Reilly/Jonah Hill comedy of the same name!) tells the story of the titular serial killer (Brian Krause) who has a penchant for abducting, torturing and murdering beautiful young women. Dubbed 'The County Line Cannibal' by the local press, Cyrus is soon the subject of an episode of the true crime TV series 'Final Steps' lead by investigative reporter Maria Sanchez (Danielle Harris) who gets a break when she meets a supposed friend of Cyrus named Emmett (Lance Henriksen).
As Maria goes about interviewing Emmett, we learn about Cyrus' personal life, how he was a prisoner of war while serving overseas and how he had marital problems with his wife, Maybelle (Patricia Belcher), when she decides she wants to leave him on their farm and move to the city. When he catches her in the arms of another man, he makes them his first kill and then serves them up as burgers at his roadside shop. We also learn about Cyrus' maternal issues, how he suffered an abusive upbringing at the hands of his prostitute mother (Tiffany Shepis). As Emmett fills us in on Cyrus' back story, we also see how his 'roadkill burgers' started to become quite popular in the area and that as his business grew, he found himself with a need for more meat - this lead to his murder spree of over two hundred victims, most of whom he tortured in his barn before slaughtering.
You've got to give Vadik credit for trying to do something a little different with the played out serial killer genre. His attempts to bookend the core story within the 'reality TV' style format don't always work but they do at least allow us to get in on some context before we're bombarded with blood and guts and nasty sexualized torture shows. This, at least, allow the grislier scenes to happen for a reason and while they are definitely on the stronger side of things, they don't feel as gratuitous as they might have in the context of a more traditional narrative. There are moments, however, that just feel fake and don't work so well - a perfect example being when the show cuts to some 'security camera' footage that is obviously just standard video slapped with some sort of Final Cut filter; it fails to convince and just doesn't look right.
The film makes some interesting twists and turns as it plays out and toys around with some interesting ideas in regards to how the media tends to sensationalize the worst that humanity has to offer, seemingly making a condemnation of it and then proceeding to wallow in gore of its own making. This sends a bit of a mixed message if you start to think about it too much, but maybe we're not supposed to.
As far as the performances go, Brian Krause, best known for his work on TV's Charmed, actually makes for a pretty convincing killer. He's handsome enough that you won't have trouble buying him as a man able to lure women in and his performance is believable enough that he works quite well in the role. Henriksen is his typically reliable self, playing a crotchety aging coot rather effectively and doing just fine in the type of role he generally excels in. Danielle Harris is fine as the reporter, she's charming and attractive and believable enough as a TV personality - she looks great in the part and has the acting chops to back it up. Tiffany Shepis and Rae Dawn Chong are also good in short supporting roles, though they aren't give as much to work with as the principal performers.
Cyrus: The Mind Of A Serial Killer was shot on digital video and it looks pretty good in this 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. Colors are a bit on the hot side in a few scenes but this looks like a stylistic choice on the part of Vadik. Detail is strong throughout and there are no problems with any dirt or debris on the image as this was obviously a digital to digital transfer. Some mild compression artifacts pop up in a couple of darker scenes but aside from that, the picture quality here is good.
The only audio option on this DVD is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix, with optional subtitles provided in English SDH. The quality of the track is pretty good, with some well placed directional effects heightening tension in a couple of the murder set pieces and the score adding a little bit of emotional depth to a few key scenes. Levels are well balanced and bass response is pretty good, offering a solid low end without burying the dialogue.
The only extra of much worth is a twenty minute behind the scenes documentary that includes interviews with writer/director Mark Vadik, who talks about what inspired him to make this movie, and cast members Danielle Harris, Lance Henriksen and Brian Krause, each of whom talk about what drew them to their respective roles and what it was like working on the movie. There's some behind the scenes footage worked in alongside the interviews and if you dug the feature attraction, this is a good way to get some insight into what was going through the heads of those who made it. A trailer for Cyrus is included and trailers for a couple of other Anchor Bay properties play before the manu and chapter stop screens load.
Cyrus: The Mind Of A Serial Killer will appeal to those looking for some good gore and strong murder set pieces, as it delivers those in spades. Those looking for a gripping story, however, will find that the film can't quite live up to its potential consistently enough to really hold our interest the way it could have. The good outweighs the bad in that the performances are pretty good as are the effects, so horror fans might want to check this out for those reasons, but it's probably not a film you're going to go back to. Consider this one a solid choice for a rental.
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.