Grimmfest 2019: A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life

A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life will be getting its northern premiere at Grimmfest 2019. The screening will take place on Friday 4th October at the ODEON Manchester Great Northern.

Tickets are still available here!

A murderous road movie that is equal parts Sightseers and Thelma and Louise, A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life is the intriguing feature debut from director Staten Cousins Roe. Starting off in a smotheringly dull seaside town, our film opens with Lou Farnt (Katie Brayben), a timid homebody with a self-help obsession. She meets Val (Poppy Roe), a lifestyle coach who promises to take her on a journey of self discovery. The pair end up murdering their way through a parade of self-help gurus at wellness retreats, each victim more oily and odious than the last.

The shy Lou is a fantastic protagonist, constantly put-upon by insensitive strangers and a bullying mother, and it’s a genuine joy to see her begin to reject the greasy platitudes of the self-styled ‘spiritual guides’. Val, whose cool determination and self-assuredness provide a much-needed counterpoint, is steely and compelling. Her casual attitude to murder and her nonplussed reaction to the pretentious retreat runners they encounter make for excellent moments of black comedy.

As was evident in his previous short This Way Out, a film about a euthanasia centre that is forced to go to extreme lengths to get punters through the door, Staten Cousins Roe is adept at balancing horror and comedy. The only criticism likely to be levelled at A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life by genre fans is a general bloodlessness. There’s plenty of murder, but the majority happen off-screen. It contributes to a general hazy, dreamlike tone, but is likely to leave the audience wanting more.

Comparisons to Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers are more than appropriate. Like Wheatley’s film, A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life feels quintessentially British. From dismal seafronts to narrow country lanes and dreary suburbs, A Serial Killer’s Guide truly understands the importance of setting. By contrasting the mundane with the murderous, Cousins Roe has tapped into the unsettling atmosphere that underlies all great British horror.

It’s also similar in that it relies on the chemistry of its two leads to carry it through. Brayben and Roe are both able to convey so much through look and gesture that the audience will absolutely understand the strength of their growing bond throughout the film, even in the many scenes with minimal dialogue. Their co-dependent relationship is oddly charming, even when cemented by the blood of the (more or less) innocent.

Overall, A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life is a witty and effective debut. It strikes a fantastic balance between comedy and darkness, although its treatment of the murders themselves can be toothless in a way that may leave audiences unsatisfied. Primarily, it is a compelling character study that is sure to leave the audience rooting for its murderous protagonists.


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