Director: Staten Cousins Roe
Screenplay: Staten Cousins Roe
Starring: Katie Brayben, Poppy Roe, Sarah Ball, Ben-Lloyd Hughes
Running Time: 81 min
BBFC Certificate: 18
Self-help is a field that is ever-growing, from watching my partners Instagram feed is anything to go by. People who are insanely positive and seem to know the right things to say at the right time.
If something is not going well in your life, well these fine folks have the words of encouragement for you. You can be someone and something important, far more important that you are at the moment. All you need is the confidence and the will to do it. Get out of that stagnating life you are living in and see what your future can really be like… You have heard it many times, but with some people, it really clicks with them and that is strangely where we begin with A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life.
This is where we meet Lou (Katie Brayben) who is an introverted, down on her luck woman who lives and caters to her religious mother, Maureen’s (Sarah Ball) ever demanding needs. Having never gotten the opportunity to break away and find her own place in the world. Lou is continually trying to figure out what could be her next step and what she needs to do to get it. Soaking in all the self-help doctrine that she can via audiobooks or motivational speakers, she meets self-help guru Val (Poppy Roe) whose confidence causes Lou to become interested in her.
Val recruits the naive Lou into helping her become the best guru in her field. Though instead of climbing that ladder her method is to murder her competition. A bold move, but one that Lou realises too late. As they travel together, Lou hopes to become the person she believes she can be.
Both leads are incredibly strong in their roles but for sheer enjoyment, Poppy Roe shines just that tad brighter. Obviously revelling in her character she is as fully fleshed a psychopath as you could wish for in a film. Unsurprisingly the close chemistry with Roe and Brayben come from previous work together. This is as close to a British comedy horror version of Thelma and Louise as you will get. The introverted person meets the magnetic extrovert who slowly brings the introvert out of her shell to dire consequences. There are further twists and turns as the duo make their way through other “guru’s” leaving you with plenty of questions by the film’s end.
Brayben deserves special mention for her role as the naive follower who realises too late what she has got herself in for. She portrays the growing confidence her character experiences with aplomb but still keeps the original awkwardness the character had at the start. Usually, in roles such as this, the actor would complete the 180 turn with no thought of what or who the character was beforehand. Brayben retains that and Lou’s arc is satisfying as a result. Where both actresses excel in their performances is within the subtleties they provide. The slight facial expressions or looks convey far more than a script would. Cousins Roe should be congratulated for showing such trust to her performers and not just rely heavily on the writing, which is still aptly, rather sharp.
Despite being set in a seaside town and around lush colours the palette is quite cold. This was surprising as I would have expected a brighter colour palette to help bring in the comedy aspect. But with the “positive” characters that the duo meet, it actually works better to dull down the visuals of the seaside and countryside with the personalities. Cinematographer James Layton still frames the film expertly, especially when confusion begins to reign for the characters.
As satirical as it is horror. A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life highlights a common issue in modern society and gently pokes fun at it before bashing it with a rock. People are desperately yearning for that moment or quote that will motivate and inspire them to kick on with their life. People seem to think they are in ruts and that they can improve upon their current standing. Progress and motivation are all they lack and the world is filled with them on YouTube and Instagram.
For those aware of this world then there are plenty of on the nose laughs to be had. From the multitude of methods in enhancing one’s self-worth to just how bizarre some take it. That is not to say that this is a niche film. For those uninitiated with the world of motivation and self-improvement, they will find so much in the film to enjoy. A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life is a funny and original film. The topic is one that I am honestly surprised no one has delved into before. It really seems ripe for satire.
A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life is an excellent debut from Staten Cousins Roe and for those who love the driest of satire mixed with horror then this is one that needs to be seen.