Tag Archives: I Am Not a Serial Killer

Fright Club: What’s On the Slab

Come up to the lab and see what’s on the slab.

The cold, sterile morgue. That basement examination room with those drawers that should really never open on their own. Those rows of tables with sheets that should not just blow around. It’s a quiet, peaceful place where, in horror movies, attractive naked women lay prone and yet onscreen without a line of dialog for 90 minute stretches.

That’s not to say that they do nothing. Sometimes they talk. Sometimes they even bite.

Thanks to Jenny from Cali for the topic idea.

Here are our favorite autopsy/morgue horror movies.

5. Re-Animator (1985)

Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator reinvigorated the Frankenstein storyline in a decade glutted with vampire films. Based, as so many fantasy/horror films are, on the work of H. P. Lovecraft, Re-Animator boasts a good mix of comedy and horror, some highly subversive ideas, and one really outstanding villain.

Jeffrey Combs, with his intense gaze and pout, his ability to mix comic timing with epic self-righteousness without turning to caricature, carries the film beginning to end. His Dr. Herbert West has developed a day-glo serum that reanimates dead tissue, but a minor foul up with his experimentations – some might call it murder – sees him taking his studies to the New England medical school Miskatonic University. There he rents a room and basement laboratory from handsome med student Dan Caine (Bruce Abbott).

They’re not just evil scientists. They’re also really bad doctors.

First-time director Gordon’s effort is superb. He glories in the macabre fun of his scenes, pushing envelopes and dumping gallons of blood and gore. He balances anxiety with comedy, mines scenes for all they have to give, and takes you places you haven’t been.

4. Anatomy (2000)

Franka Potente leads a medical school mystery in Stefan Ruzowitzky’s film about Germany’s ugly history with medical experimentation and societal hierarchy.

Ruzowitzky would go on to direct the Oscar winning foreign language film The Counterfeiters in 2007, but back in 2000 he was still riding high on the surprise success of this mid-budget medical horror.

Potente is Paula. She’s new and maybe a little frigid for her prestigious medical school. In one of her classes she recognizes a corpse. Her curiosity piqued, what she stumbles into may look like a by-the-book slasher, but it digs into the scars of a generation whose beloved forebears were either implicit in heinous crimes against humanity, or who participated willingly.

3. The Corpse of Anna Fritz (2015)

Young hospital orderly Pau (Albert Carbo) attends the morgue, where the famous actress Anna Fritz (Alba Ribas) awaits an autopsy come morning. He secretly texts a selfie with the body to two buddies.

Soon, three young men are alone with a beautiful, naked, dead woman with absolutely no chance of being interrupted for hours. If you’re a little concerned with where this may lead, well, you should be.

Sort of a cross between 2008’s irredeemable rape fantasy Deadgirl and Tarantino’s brilliant Kill Bill, Volume 1, The Corpse of Anna Fritz will take you places you’d rather not go.

As a comment on rape culture, the film is a pointed and singular horror.

And while contrivances pile up like cadavers in a morgue, each one poking a hole in the credibility of the narrative being built, The Corpse of Anna Fritz has a lot more to offer than you might expect – assuming you stick it out past the first reel.

2. I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016)

Billy O’Brien (Isolation) finds a new vision for the tired serial killer formula with his wry, understated indie horror I Am Not a Serial Killer.

An outsider in a small Minnesota town, John (Max Records) works in his mom’s morgue, writes all his school papers on serial killers, and generally creeps out the whole of his high school. But when townsfolk start turning up in gory pieces, John turns his keen insights on the case.

Records, who melted me as young Max in Spike Jonze’s 2009 masterpiece Where the Wild Things Are, serves up an extraordinarily confident, restrained performance. His onscreen chemistry with the nice old man across the street – Back to the Future’s Christopher Lloyd – generates thrills enough to offset the movie’s slow pace.

For his part, Lloyd is in turns tender, heartbreaking and terrifying.

Bursts of driest humor keep the film engaging as the story cleverly inverts the age-old “catch a killer” cliché and toys with your expectations as it does.

1. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2017)

Back in 2010, Andre Ovredal established himself as a filmmaker of unusual vision with his found footage style gem Trollhunter. His first English-language film takes him into the basement examination room of father and son coroners.

Both stars Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch are underappreciated actors, and each one turns in a wonderfully familiar, tender performance. Their kinship and associated dysfunction are played with enough restraint to keep it from weighing down proceedings, instead creating a believably protective relationship that causes certain scenes to hurt.

As the two dig in to the mystery of their latest patient, an unidentified woman found underground in a nearby basement, an intimate and claustrophobic but always smart and creepy mystery starts to unveil itself. The result is a chilling and effective thriller.

Quest Que C’est

I Am Not a Serial Killer

by Hope Madden

To find a serial killer, you have to get inside his head. This is not a new concept in horror movies, thrillers, police procedurals. No, this is a tired conceit.

But Irish filmmaker Billy O’Brien (Isolation) finds a new vision for it with his wry, understated indie I Am Not a Serial Killer.

John (Max Records) is an outsider in a small Minnesota town. He works in his mom’s morgue, writes all his school papers on serial killers, and generally creeps out the whole of his high school. His preoccupations have landed him a therapist, the bird enthusiast Dr. Neblin (Karl Geary).

Turns out, John is a budding sociopath – that’s his official diagnosis. A good kid who lacks empathy, may not feel love, and obsesses over death and murder, he follows self-imposed rules and rituals to try to make himself normal and ensure the safety of those around him.

But when townsfolk start turning up in gory pieces, John turns his keen insights on the case.

Though O’Brien’s film may be too quiet an effort to command attention, his coming-of-age approach and indie sensibilities help him turn this outlandish and contrived effort into something touching, humorous and rewarding.

Records, who melted me as young Max in Spike Jonze’s 2009 masterpiece Where the Wild Things Are, serves up an extraordinarily confident, restrained performance. One scene, in particular – when he turns the tables on a bully at the school dance – is outstanding.

His onscreen chemistry with the nice old man across the street – Back to the Future’s Christopher Lloyd – generates thrills enough to offset the movie’s slow pace.

For his part, Lloyd is in turns tender, heartbreaking and terrifying.

The story cleverly inverts the age-old “catch a killer” cliché and toys with your expectations as it does. Robbie Ryan’s grainy cinematography gives the film a throwback looks that fits the image of a depressed Midwest town lost in time.

Bursts of driest humor keep the film engaging, while Records’s performance engenders the kind of empathy from the audience that the character himself could never muster.

It’s an effective twist on the serial killer formula, certainly, not to mention a coming-of-age tale that accepts its unpopular protagonist for who he is rather than how he could be made over to be happier in a way that makes us comfortable.

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