My notes on A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life
This British spree-killing black comedy owes as big a debt to Sightseers as that did to Nuts in May … though its distinctively different killer couple, if they actually are a duo, and gleeful attack on the self-help industry give it a fresh feel. Lou Farnt (Katie Brayben), downtrodden carer for her manipulative shrew of a mother (Sarah Ball), consumes self-help manuals on audiobook and attends seminars on actualising her inner tigress (or whatever) but does little to turn her life of general doormatry around until she falls in with wandering ‘life coach’ Val Stone (Poppy Roe), who is – as advertised in the title – also a serial killer, specialising in the murder of soft-spoken practitioners of all manner of therapeutic waffle, from communing with nature in a field to standing around laughing hysterically. The sketches, which top off caricatures of smug charlatanism with fairly bloodless murder, are interspersed with thoughts from guru Chuck Knoah (Ben Lloyd-Hughges, riffing on Tom Cruise in Magnolia), who is plainly going to be the pair’s last big kill.
Writer-director Staten Cousins Roe raises the possibility early that Val is a Tyler Durden-like projection of Lou’s inner Mrs Hyde, though this doesn’t entirely go down that route. It doesn’t take the easy out of making all the victims venal hypocrites – though the couple who administer calming drugs before groping their clients probably don’t represent alternative psychotherapy at its finest – but does seize on the fact that this sort of plausible, soft-spoken, muddle-headed new ageyness almost invariably comes across as arrant crackpotism or fraud to add a seam of wry malice to the murderous road trip. The leads have to play fairly extreme characters – Lou’s fecklessness and Val’s diva act are sustained notes – but spark well off each other. It also has an overcast, chintzy, weak tea and digestive biscuit vision of the British seaside small town that drips away horribly.
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