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How to Be a Serial Killer (2008)

How to Be a Serial KillerReviewed by Scott A. Johnson

Starring Dameon Clarke, Laura Regan, Matthew Gray Gubler, George Wyner

Directed by Luke Ricci


Are you tired of your life? Do you feel unappreciated? Do you feel like you’re living up to your potential? No? Well, I’ll tell you something…I believe in you. Dameon Clarke believes in you. Hell, everyone seems to believe in you but yourself! You can have that life you want. All you have to do is reach out and take it. Oh…And kill anyone who gets into your path. Would you like to know how? Then call the toll-free number and sign up for the seminar, and you too could be functioning, living the life, and cutting off your first human head while you’re at it! Call now and discover…How to Be a Serial Killer.

This is a blacker than black comedy, with some truly side-splitting moments (in a weird way) and more than a few moments which make the audience wonder just what sort of crazy ride they’ve climbed on. Shot as part infomercial, part documentary, part narrative movie, the show follows Mike (Dameon Clarke), who skewers all the self-help gurus on late-night television with his own way of attaining all your life goals: Serial Killing. Throughout the movie he lays down ten easy steps, ethics, and demonstrates the use of common household items for use in your new chosen vocation. Along the way, he picks up Bart (Matthew Gray Gubler), a nerdy video-store clerk/doormat whom he takes under his wing and grooms him to be his protégé. Gleeful, blood-soaked mayhem ensues.

What makes this movie so good is that the lead serial killer, Mike, is just so damned endearing. Whether standing on a stage hawking his program or driving down the street with Bart, he just comes across as someone who genuinely loves his job. Of course, that job involves murder most foul, but hey…Nobody’s perfect, right? He also has the ability to go from sweetheart to batshit crazy in about half a millisecond, which always serves to keep the audience right on that razor’s edge. His partner, however, is his complete antithesis. Where Mike is confident, Bart is a simpering coward. Where Mike speaks with authority, Bart is terrified to say anything, and often whines as he does it. Bart’s the kind of character most audience members will want to beat with a sock full of quarters until he stops being such a simpering idiot.

The movie does have a few slow moments, and there comes a point where the “I’m funny but psychotic” schtick gets tedious. But it all comes to a head in a scene that shows Mike with more depth than just a raving lunatic. And while the sub-plot of whether his girlfriend thinks he’s gay and cheating with Bart is humorous, the lengths to which she goes to avoid questioning Mike are a little much.

So come on down! Get rid of that downer of a life and start getting the things you want! You deserve the good life, and you can have it too! But how far are you willing to go to attain your goals? Are you willing to sacrifice? Are you willing to kill to get them? I thought so.

3.5 out of 5

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Scott A. Johnson

  • pan

    Balancing comedy and horror is difficult, and more often than not, doesn’t work. Here is an example of a film having many of the right elements for either one, but ultimately not working because it didn’t let the viewer decide where that line is. Instead, the film forces the comic tone on us through very innapropriate music and the way-over-used mock self-improvement seminar scenes. As a result, the horror is watered down and the comedy seems out of place – niether one works.

    Too much emphasis on the comedy watered down any impact that the more frightening elements of the story had on me. The constant cutting away to the serial killer as a self-help seminar guru, while an interesting way to start the film, quickly became redundant and annoying, slowing down any tension or interest in the story that was building. The many conversations between the two likeable main characters were a much more effective way to show the humor behind the horrific acts. We didn’t need the constant wink, wink to remind us.

    And if ever a movie’s music was over used or not needed, here it is. The obnoxious, inappropriate music throughout the film was a real distraction for me and detracted from the plot, acting, and shifting tone that should have been enough to make the point the film maker wanted. The film maker didn’t seem to have confidence in the script, so music was added through the entire film to make sure we understand the humorous tone. Instead of adding anything to the movie, the music was a major distraction and a flaw in the entire film.

    Whenever the movie started to work, as when serial killer’s world starts to unravel and he goes on a killing rampage of his neighbors, it shows were the film may have gone; however, it quickly fizzles into an action shootout ending that was neither exciting nor appropriate.

    There were so many elements to this film that could have made it much better. Ultimately though, I can’t recommend it, and I feel it was a victim of its own overendulgence of both genres that it tried to take on: If it wanted to be a comedy, why make the killing scenes so bruatal and realistic? And if it wanted to be a comedy, why try so hard?