A Serial Killer's Guide to Life - Grimmfest Review

★★★★★

Directed by: #StatenCousinsRoe

Written by: #StatenCousinsRoe

Starring: #KatieBrayben, #PoppyRoe, #SianClifford, #BenLloydHughes

Grimmfest Film Review by: Darren TIlby



Road trip movies aren’t a recent phenomenon. And, if I’m honest, they don’t particularly excite me. But within minutes, I knew I loved this film. So what makes Staten Cousins Roe’s Thelma & Louise inspired film any different?


Well, to begin with, this is a thoroughly modern take on small-town isolation and loneliness. It’s a typical genre setup but excels here with brilliant use of its setting—nothing screams ‘dejection’ like a sleepy seaside town. While #JamesLayton’s superbly drab cinematography, with its muted colour palette and perfectly framed landscape shots, completes the oppressive atmosphere. It’s here that Lou (Katie Brayben) exists. And that’s all Lou has...an existence. Only the most cynical of people would call what she has a ‘life’.


Lou drifts through her day-to-day routine of working a dead-end job, caring for her overbearing mother (a wonderfully unpleasant performance from #SarahBall), and attending the occasional self-help seminar. It’s at one of these seminars where, after sitting through the usual self-righteous drivel, Lou meets Val (Poppy Roe). Val fills the genre’s typical mysterious stranger role. She’s confident, strong, and independent; everything Lou wishes she was. And, of course, it doesn’t take long for Lou to leave her mundane life behind in favour of excitement and adventure with her new ‘life coach’.


This journey across the home counties, partaking in various self-help classes and murdering the group leaders, is a profoundly contemporary take on the ‘women against the establishment’ concept. But instead of hitting out against the patriarchy, these ladies are taking on the oft sanctimonious hypocrisy of said self-help groups. But as things begin to unravel, it may be that the couple are bound by more than blood.

This central pairing is the lifeblood of the film. The performances here are excellent: with the emancipated and powerful Val being the perfect antithesis to the unassuming and timid Lou. And the chemistry between the characters, the most crucially important aspect of the movie, feels all kinds of right—it’s naturalistic and respectful. Of course, having a good script to work from goes a long way towards helping an actor/actress with their work. And writer/director Staten Cousins Roe’s has written a belter. Marvellous and witty dialogue, unapologetically full of British mannerisms, imbue the characters with a sympathetic charm that serial killers really shouldn’t possess. I mean, where else apart from Britain could you have someone apologise to another, after bludgeoning them to death, and think ‘yeah, that’s relatable’.


I really enjoyed A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life. The Thelma & Louise influence is quite apparent, particularly towards the end of the film. But I felt enough had been done to create distance from any obvious reference point that the film was more than capable of standing on its own two feet. Brilliant performances underlie this very British and expertly written tale of dead-ended loneliness. And with its wickedly sharp but understated black humour, A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life is destined to become a British cult-classic.