How to Be a Serial Killer (2008)
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I was already a fan of Matthew Gray Gubler from Criminal Minds. He did not disappoint. His portrayal of Bart was perfect.
I had never heard of Dameon Clarke, but after seeing this film I am a fan and I am checking out his other work. He did an excellent job, and he very much deserved the award as best actor he received from the NYC Horror Film Festival. Laura Regan was adorable as Abigail.
I love dark comedy, and this one did it just right. I never get tired of Mike Wilson's (Clarke) enthusiasm for his "craft", such as when he demonstrates all the different and creative ways to kill. I had to cheer him on as he did in the jerk at the video store and the creep who was abusing his dog, just to name a few. I never thought I could find murder so funny.
Then in the midst of all this dark humor, there were actually some scenes that turned out to be very poignant. It was a bit of a roller coaster ride, and I like that in a movie.
People who don't get this movie and find it funny - well, I would have to guess that they don't have much of a sense of humor. I loved it - so shoot me...
Mike Wilson (Dameon Clarke) is a charming man with a loving girlfriend Abigail (Lauren Regan), who is a serial killer on the side. Believing that he's doing good and taking charge of his life, Mike takes Bart (Matthew Gray Gubler), a bored video store worker, under his wing and teaches him the rules of serial killing. This story is framed by documentary-style direct-to-camera addresses by the characters and a motivational seminar – hosted by Mike – on how to become a serial killer.
While this territory has recently been covered by the 'Dexter' TV series and novels, HTBASK has a real dark comic feel: taking the dark fantasies we all have and putting them into action. It doesn't try to glamorise serial killers, instead showing the natural consequences of choosing that lifestyle.For all his charm, Mike comes off as delusional in believing his way is correct. The cut scenes involving Mike's suave seminar presentation acts as a satire of the slick self-help speaker. The one who can manipulate the audience into believing whatever he wants them to. He does this with Bart, and gradually earns his trust.
Overall, HTBASK is a darkly funny look at the reality of being a serial killer seen through the eyes of a criminal.
The movie is a solid vehicle for prolific working actor Dameon Clarke, who's done a great deal of voice-over work for video games. He delivers a charismatic, confident performance as Mike Wilson, who wishes to impart his wisdom to a young apprentice, whom he's decided will be meek video store employee Bart (Matthew Gray Gubler of 'Criminal Minds'). Mike teaches Bart everything that he knows, from victim selection to body disposal - not to mention trying to keep a loved one, in this case Mikes' girlfriend Abigail (Laura Regan, "Dead Silence") - in the dark for as long as possible. Their scenes are intercut with those of a psychologist, Dr. Goldberg (veteran comedy character actor George Wyner of "Spaceballs") educating us on the nature of serial murderers.
This is spirited, high-energy entertainment with a rather profound wrap-up, which shows that there is more going on here than just the comedy quotient. Clarke and the likable Gubler work well together and the story has enough pacing and cleverness going for it to make it worth recommending to others.
Eight out of 10.
A narrator begins the TV infomercial. "Is it hard for you to get up in the morning? ... Well don't despair, because Mike Wilson can help you. Mike's unique formula has helped millions of people ... Since becoming a serial killer, Mike has achieved a level of success ... he never thought possible. And now he's going to share his secrets with you in this amazing life-changing seminar". Marvelous.
The plot alternates between Mike's on-stage lessons and his field experience mentoring a young nerdy-looking video store clerk, Bart (Matthew Gubler). Together, as buddies, they excise a number of people whom they take a disliking to. Trouble is, their victims don't really deserve their fate. I would have preferred people who really measured up: a Wall Street swindler, some crooked politician, a rapist, a CEO whose company products hurt innocent people, for example.
At various points in the plot, a psychiatrist, who talks directly to viewers, imparts some legit background information on serial killers. Which contrasts nicely with Mike's false "perception is reality" creed.
I like this film less for its comedy (though the beginning is funny) than for its originality and thematic depth. Clarke and Gubler are well cast; and their performances are fine. A digital, high-definition camcorder captures the visuals; and with characters occasionally breaking the fourth wall, the film conveys a documentary look and feel.
Most of the film is satirical and meant as black comedy. But in the final few minutes the film turns serious, as it communicates a profound sense of fatalism, by way of an amazingly potent rendition of an old gospel hymn and the stark visuals of a man entrapped by delusion.
This film was far from boring, but it sadly fell short of it's potential due to a timid, aimless script that failed to push the boundaries far enough. By that, I don't mean adding blood and guts galore, but making the humour a bit more 'oh-that's-just-wrong' daring and perhaps having something to say about societal desensitization or serial killer groupies which may have given the film a bit of focus and a bit more oomph.
The set up and structure of the film were good, but the victims weren't vile enough to keep the viewer on the killers side (quite the reverse in a couple of cases) and the script lacked any real wit. Add to this a fairly cheesy musical score and some dodgy sound editing and the end result was just all a tad *meh*.
All in all, the points this film scores are for the performances of the two leads, particularly Matthew Gray Gubler who plays the needy, uncertain apprentice to perfection. These chaps need to be on our screens more - they are quality performers.
This film was OK. Just don't expect anything cutting edge.
Mike Wilson is a combination of the articulate and charismatic Ted Bundy, and the fictional Dexter from the Showtime series. Mike is on an infomercial, promoting the killing of annoying people. He takes on a student, Bart, and instructs him on how to dispose of corpses and the many different and creative ways of committing murder. The result is a mildly amusing comedy, which sort of breezes along and is at the level of a made for TV movie.
Now, understand that I have nothing against this movie's premise. A comedy about a serial killer could've worked, as could a movie analyzing a serial killer's delusion about himself and what he does. However, this movie tries to be both. As such, it was impossible for me to take the serious bits seriously due to the attempts at comedy and the comedic bits aren't exaggerated enough for me NOT to take them seriously. If you want to be comedic, be comedic. If you want to be serious, be serious. Don't try to meet halfway. The only point where I started taking the film completely seriously was at the end during the climax, and even then I didn't like what I was seeing.
While I held high hopes for this movie at the beginning thanks to its title, those hopes were quickly dashed when we were introduced to our resident serial killer, Mike. Now, nothing against the actor, but in a comedy with as dark a subject matter as this, there is no place for people. And that's my main problem with Mike: the film tries too hard to portray him as a normal person while forgetting that comedy comes from the abnormal, the twisted, and the weird. Mike wasn't any of those things. He was just "normal", and as such, the movie's attempts to portray his character comically fall flat. Then again, maybe I was supposed to take them seriously, but because of the unclear tone the movie had I was unsure whether I was supposed to laugh or be horrified. Most of the time I was horrified.
Despite that, while I might not have liked this movie, I let it keep two additional stars on the merit of its premise and the fact that while the problems in this movie are big ones, they're hardly rage-inducing.
And please, if you're going to make a movie about a serial killer, go full-bore. Don't try to meet the two ends of the spectrum halfway.