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Home | Film Reviews | Film Review: How to Be a Serial Killer (2008)

Film Review: How to Be a Serial Killer (2008)

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Meet Mike Wilson (Dameon Clarke). He’s charming. He’s smart. He’s a serial killer — and a very happy one, too. Determined to share the secrets of his satisfying career, Mike enlists sad-sack video store clerk Bart (Matthew Gray Gubler) as his star pupil. Mike enlightens Bart on the finer points of body disposal and other tricks of the trade, but it’s not long before Mike’s girlfriend catches on to his very odd job in this hilarious dark comedy.


Directed by: Luke Ricci
Written by: Luke Ricci
Starring: Dameon Clarke, Laura Regan, Matthew Gray Gubler, George Wyner

Infomercials are a staple of late night television viewing; whether it is buying a new product or viewing the newest self-help video, infomercials are elaborate forms of persuasion. In Luke Ricci’s How to Be a Serial Killer, Mike Wilson(Dameon Clarke) provides an educational seminar about serial killing, which also ties into his real life as a professional serial killer. Mike’s story is reinforced by supporting characters, giving reactions to why and how Mike works.

The film begins with a set up into the mind of serial killer by Dr. Goldberg(George Wyner.) Throughout the film, Dr. Goldberg supports Mike’s thought processes through careful psychological analysis dealing with theories of mental instability. The infomercial immediately starts, as a handsome dressed Mike appears with an announcer proclaiming the seminar, with a simple ten step process in which anyone can be a serial killer.

The counter story interferes, with the next shot of a lowly video store attendant being harassed by an irate customer. Mike interviews the attendant, Bart(Matthew Gray Gubler), and asks what he would do if he had the chance to do anything he pleased to the unpleasant customer. Mike sees a spark in Bart’s thinking, and asks him to follow the man outside behind the video store. Mike immediately kills the customer, and Bart is both surprised and relieved by the quick elimination of the guy that caused him stress. Bart becomes Mike’s disciple, and Mike spends most of his time teaching Bart tricks of the serial killing trade.

The ten step process Mike proposes in his seminar ties in to his life, one by one. Mike uses props, and clever sayings such as “P and D” referring to “Perseverance and Discipline.” The emotional steps of how to deal with the ones around him fit perfectly with the story of Mike’s life. Mike has a beautiful girlfriend, Abigail(Laura Regan), whom he is careful to hide his secret lifestyle away from her knowledge. Mike is shown as a wonderful boyfriend, and eliminates all suspicion that he lives a dark double life.

His happy existence of course comes to a halt, when one small mistake of leaving the keys to the safe in which he leaves his weapons in is found by Abigail. Bart comes over to Mike’s, seeing Mike devastated and Abigail in a pool of blood in the kitchen. This of course breaks one of Mike’s steps of “never kill anyone you know,” and Mike’s life descends to a screeching halt after his seemingly successful ten stop process cannot save him from being caught by the cops.

How to Be a Serial Killer gave a fictional spin on a documentary of an actual serial killer. Two movies that came to mind in the past are Scott Glosserman’s Behind the Mask: Rise of Leslie Vernon and Remy Belvaux’s Man Bites Dog. The main difference between the three is the psychological exploration that How to Be a Serial Killer entertains, and the ability to make Mike so emotionally disconnected that his fantasizes about starring in his own infomercial. I found the dark comedy approach very appealing, with actors that supported their roles very well. Mike is very straightforward in how to excel in the art of serial killing, and provides many tips that differ from some traditional folklore of older serial killers. The film harnesses some gore, with a section on how to dispose of the body properly involving dissection and mutilation.

Luke Ricci’s How to Be a Serial Killer is a comical depiction of what would happen if a serial killer decided to pass on his knowledge through the media of a videotaped seminar. Even though the film is fiction, the thought of seeing such a taboo product is delightful and a fresh venture made for the serial killer genre of films.

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