A disturbed sixteen year-old boy is trying his best to not turn into the murderer he feels genetically programmed to be. And so when a spree of unexplained and obviously connected deaths occur in his town, he sets about putting his urges to good use and figuring out who is behind them.
If you were to take the flashbacks to the troubled, teenage version of Michael C Hall’s Dexter and cross them with Michael C Hall’s character from Six Feet Under, you would have something close to John Wayne Cleaver (Max Records, who played the kid in Where The Wild Things Are). A lank-haired, plaid-wearing outsider-teen, he is obsessed by serial killers and overly fascinated by the bodies in his family’s small town funeral home. Unsurprisingly, the jocks at school call him ‘freak’, while his mother (Laura Fraser, or Lydia from Breaking Bad) is worried about him to the extent that she takes him to see a therapist (Karl Geary), who confirms that her son exhibits all the telltale signs of a serial killer in the making.
Cleaver, though, is a good kid. He has developed some (quite amusing) ways of quelling his urges, and when his town is beset by a series of murders, takes it upon himself figure out who is committing them. Top of the list of suspects is neighbour Mr Crowley (Christopher Lloyd), with whom he concocts a bond, helping to shovel the snow in front of his house. Lloyd and Records are absolutely fantastic together, and the scenes they share are when the film really starts to come alive, with a unique tone that is as wry as it is dark and eerie.
The big twist, when in comes, sees proceedings unexpectedly veer into the realm of the fantastical, and in truth feels somewhat forced following such a brilliantly understated first hour (the story is adapted from Dan Wells’ 2009 book, in which the supernatural elements fitted more comfortably). Fortunately though, the strength of the performances in the lead up is such that you can just about go with it: particularly Records, of whom it would be nice to see a lot more of in the near future.
Breathing new life into the overfamiliar terrain of the serial killer, Irish director Billy O’Brien here both successfully reintroduces Max Records to the world, and elicits Christopher Lloyd’s best performance in a long time. His film deserves cult classic status at the very least.