Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer (DVD)
Directed by Mark Vadik
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer is a flick I had an opportunity to check out last year while judging the 2010 crop of submissions for the Shriekfest Film Festival in Los Angeles. And while I remembered that it was a pretty decent indie horror flick, I was curious to go back and watch it again to see if the film holdscup a second time around. And surprisingly, it does.
Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing particularly remarkable to the story of Cyrus, a serial killer that not only hunts down his prey but actually serves up his victims as various meat products for his small-town neighbors. But what saves the movie from becoming a Behind the Mask/Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer rip-off is writer/director Mark Vadik’s approach to the story and strong performances by both genre icon Lance Henriksen and the always solid Brian Krause.
At the beginning of Cyrus, we meet an ambitious reporter named Maria (Harris) who is working on the story of a lifetime about Cyrus (Krause), a local serial killer that goes by the twisted moniker “The County Line Cannibal.” And while the locals in town aren’t talking about the infamous resident, Maria finally gets a lead she’d been hoping for after she’s contacted by Emmett (Henriksen), who claims to have been a friend of the lunatic. He agrees to tell Maria what he knows about Cyrus, if only in an attempt to help people realize how misunderstood his friend’s actions were and that he wasn’t “that bad of a guy.”
Throughout the film viewers go back and forth between Maria’s interview with Emmett and some flashbacks of Cyrus’ incredibly twisted life- the son of a prostitute who ended up becoming a ward of the state and let’s just say from there the guy faced a lot of raw deals in life, and Cyrus found the only way he could deal with those hardships was to start hunting and killing people and eventually serving up his victims to the unsuspecting customers of his meat shop.
From a distance, Cyrus may seem like a mediocre story that feels like every other serial killer movie it pays homage to, and yet, writer/director Vadik does a remarkable thing and manages to turn the overdone serial killer subgenre on its head and gives viewers an engaging look into the life of a serial killer without ever ripping off its predecessors.
It’s sad to say that these days when I see an independent horror movie that features a performance by Henriksen, I pretty much know the quality of the project going into it. That’s a sad fact to actually come out and admit, but the guy is just everywhere these days. So imagine my surprise when both he and Krause were able to pull off remarkable performances in Cyrus. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Henriksen play any role with quiet restraint, but here he shines without ever having to raise his voice once. It’s his relaxed but matter-of-fact approach to telling Cyrus’ story to Maria that gives the film a great creepy vibe.
Krause, who’s always been a dependable actor in previous roles like his long-running stint on “Charmed” or even the underrated camp-fest Sleepwalkers, demonstrates here that he’s a guy with great range, and his gritty portrayal of the demented serial killer Cyrus gives the movie a great uneasy vibe that will keep you feeling very unsettled until the end of the movie. There are times when you get the sense that Cyrus is a guy who truly wanted a wholesome life but could just never escape a horrifying past that continued to haunt him into his adult years, driving him to commit murder, and it’s that touch of humanity that makes Krause’s portrayal of the titular character so compelling.
In terms of bonus features, we get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Cyrus that actually dug a lot deeper than many special feature materials seem to do these days so I really enjoyed hearing about what inspired Vadik’s serial killer tale and getting a look at the special effects work done in the film as well (and for a movie made at a modest budget level, the gore in the flick is actually pretty strong). It's just too bad that's all there is.
For an indie horror flick, Cyrus is a remarkably fresh take on sort of a stale subgenre these days. Anchored by great performances and a unique storytelling approach, the film is a great find for all those indie horror fans out there. And while you’ll pretty much know what’s going to happen in Cyrus at about 10 minutes into the film, you’ll never mind it because film manages to still be pretty damn engaging.
3 out of 5
2 out of 5
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