Director: Staten Cousins-Roe
Writer: Staten Cousins-Roe
Cast: Katie Brayben, Poppy Roe, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Sinead Matthews, Sarah Ball, Tomiwa Edun
Cert: 15 (TBC)
Running time: 81mins
What’s the story: Lonely, bullied wallflower Lou (Brayben) goes on a soul-searching road trip with life-coach Val, who also happens to be a serial killer.
What’s the verdict: Go Nuts in May would be another title for Staten Cousins-Roe’s feature debut.
The director’s primary target is the army of self-help gurus, pushing mishmash philosophies and empty platitude on the lonely. But, his script avoids easy pot-shots, populating the story with well-realised characters and adding a veneer of comic-pathos to proceedings, like a fine coating of March drizzle.
At the centre of this is Katie Brayben’s Lou, a well-meaning, trod-upon twentysomething. Living with her caustic mum (Ball), Lou regularly attends self-improvement seminars, filling her bookshelves with “better you” handbooks.
Lou’s journey of self-actualisation takes a darker turn when she is adopted by radical life-coach Val for a road trip of self-discovery. And a little murder… a lot of murder.
Kickstarter funded, but confidently directed, handsomely shot and played with perfect pitch by the two leads, A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life is a homegrown horror treat. Cousins-Roe leaves the mayhem mostly off-screen, instead showing the grisly aftermath of Val’s misdeeds.
He also shows a keen eye for unsettling British scenery, be it a wet camping ground where Val and Lou go back to nature with a gang of lonelies, a large detached house, home to rural kinkiness, or the unwelcoming stretches of country road linking the spots on Val’s murder map.
Poppy Roe (director’s Roe’s partner) has a ball as the immaculately groomed, stern-faced and unblinking radical therapist. Casually dismissing phonies with offensive put-downs, or blunt objects when she really tires of them, Val is a deliciously dark comic creation.
She is a great foil to Brayben’s Lou, who believably shifts from doormat to something more interesting as the extent of Val’s project becomes apparent.
Able back-up is provided by a well selected cast of familiar faces from TV and film including Sinead Matthews and Tomiwa Edun. Plus, Lloyd-Hughes as an uber-life coach, not a million miles away from a c.2005 Scientology promoting Tom Cruise.
An end-of-second act story shift will be spotted by those paying attention. But, this does not detract from a film that would make a good double bill with Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers. Or Withnail and I for that matter…
An irresistibly English serial killer tale, its bladed humour cuts like a Jamie Oliver 6-piece Acacia Knife Block set. Leaving blood all over the new curtains.