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Serial Killing 101
2004 - R - 88 Mins.
Director: Trace Slobotkin
Producer: Elise Ballard, Jim Sprague
Written By: Trace Slobotkin
Starring: Justin Urich, Lisa Loeb, Thomas Haden Church, Rick Overton, Barbara Niven
Review by: Joe Rickey
   
A low budget combination of a mystery, dark comedy (very dark), and horror film, ‘Serial Killing 101’ is a better than expected direct-to-video effort written and directed by Trace Slobotkin and released on DVD from Lions Gate Home Entertainment. The film’s plot goes something like this: Casey Noland (Justin Urich) is a senior at a new high school having moved recently after the death of his father, a police officer. He lives with his loving mom Donna (Barbara Niven). Despite all this he has little to no ambition in life. He simply does not care about his future; one thing his militaristic “Gymnasium Coach” Vince Grimaldi (Thomas Haden Church) has deduced. One thing he does care about though is girls, more specifically, a self-professed Goth girl who still manages to be cute while wearing layers of black clothing, Sasha Fitzgerald (Lisa Loeb). He talks to her one day in the library while researching a report he has to do on his future plans in life. They hit it off and she agrees to help him think of a topic for the report.

After much thinking, she tells him to write a report stating that he wants to grow up and be a serial killer (I’m not joking). Not only that, he wants to become the most infamous killer in history and Sasha has agreed to be his first victim. After that he plans on making it his pattern to kill old people. He will be the new Dr. Kevorkian. After buying a cadre of power tools which he plans to use to kill people, Casey has just one problem: he doesn’t have it in him to kill people; especially not Sasha, who he has fallen in love with. When he tries to kill an old senile lady at a local nursing home, she believes him to be his long lost grandson and she becomes endearing to him in a hilarious scene in which he tells others staying at the home about his make-believe profession as a FBI agent tracking serial killers. At first they think he is a carpenter because of all the power tools he has with him and it’s only after repeated assurance that they believe him to not be a carpenter.

Now, his strange ambition has alerted the entire staff at the high school he attends and even a police officer. He has even been forced to attend therapy sessions twice a week with the school psychologist. Trouble arises when a serial killer really starts killing people and now, because of his past behavior, Casey is a prime suspect. He, with help from Sasha, must unmask the killer before he is the one charged with the crimes.

‘Serial Killing 101’ was formerly called ‘Serial Killing 4 Dummies’ before a title change was mandated because of pressure from the publishers of the ‘Dummies’ series of self-help books (You know, the ones with titles like ‘Windows XP for Dummies’, etc.). No matter the title, the film is one wickedly dark comedy. This film contains an element of mystery but make no mistake about it, it is first and foremost a dark comedy. In basically every scene one can imagine the filmmakers winking at us as what might seem like sick and twisted plot elements are played out.

For example, when Casey is purchasing the various power tools he is being helped by an employee of what amounts to a knockoff of Home Depot. When they get to a leaf blower Casey mentions that it isn’t very dangerous and then asks if it could become as such by inserting something sharp in it. The employee, a bespectacled hunchback of a man, says “Wow. It would shoot out like a rocket, harming everyone and everything in its path.” No employee would ever really even suggest something like that but in the world director Slobotkin has created for this film such behavior isn’t out of the ordinary. Much fun is also made of how Casey stands in front of a mirror in his room armed with his newly acquired power tools shouting various corny sayings at the camera such as “I have the urge to purge.” These scenes come across as something that might be done in Sam Raimi’s ‘Evil Dead’ films and Slobotkin acknowledges this by having Casey state that one saying is simply “Too ‘Evil Dead.” For those of you now thinking that the film is just a riff on horror films ala ‘Scary Movie’ don’t be alarmed because, thankfully, it is not. Unlike that series of films, ‘Serial Killing 101’ takes the time to create two little quirky misfits of personas in Casey Noland and Sasha Fitzgerald that despite their inherently odd behavior are imminently likable. The film also benefits from equally quirky but watchable characters in both Rick Overton’s pseudo-hip guidance counselor and Thomas Haden Church’s over the top teacher whose signature “Gymnasium Class” line is downright hilarious.

Although the film does suffer from sub par cinematography and production design that leaves a lot to be desired, two signs of the film’s low budget nature, ‘Serial Killing 101’ is recommended viewing for those who don’t take everything that occurs seriously and fans of straight-out horror films will also likely find the film to their liking.



 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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