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  Serial Killer's Guide to Life, A Keep Your Advice To Yourself
Year: 2019
Director: Staten Cousins Roe
Stars: Katie Brayben, Poppy Roe, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Tomiwa Edun, Sinead Matthews, Sian Clifford, Fiona Glascott, Sarah Ball, Owain Rhys Davies, David Newman, Carys Lewis, David Manson, Matthew Woodyatt
Genre: Horror, Comedy, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lou Farnt (Katie Brayben) is going nowhere fast, no matter how much she dreams of a better life that she half-believes she can attain, but then again her circumstances are apt to knock those dreams out of her and bring her straight down to earth with a bump. She lives in an English seaside town where she works in an ice cream parlour, but she is also a carer for her mother Maureen (Sarah Ball) who leans heavily on her daughter to the point of bullying her and making her guilty for no good reason. But Lou still has her escape: the self-help gurus who makes careers out of giving advice to the hopeless, which is precisely what she is. At one such seminar, she meets a stranger...

Said stranger being Val Stone (Poppy Roe), who, wouldn't you know it, is another self-help guru, Lou is even bumping into them in daily life now. But Val is something different, for her modus operandi is very radical from the others in her field, as Lou discovers when she seizes the opportunity to break free from her drudgery and accompany her on a road trip that will teach her all that Val knows about building up self-esteem, finding a focus to improve her existence, and murdering anyone who irks her. What? As the title suggests, Val has a unique way of destressing and ensuring that she has no competition in what according to this film is a seriously crowded community: she kills her rivals.

This was obviously made for peanuts, and at around an hour and a quarter of running time (not counting the end credits) it didn't stick around either, yet thanks to a singlemindedness that Val would find admirable director Staten Cousins Roe made his meagre budget count, largely through some very canny location scouting. It did not, thankfully, look like somebody's home movies as despite the lack of funds, the great outdoors came to their rescue and delivered some striking views of the South Coast for the duo to stalk as they began to amass a number of kills, all of whom have some connection to that inspirational speaker and self-actualisation courses work Val despises.

Or rather, she despises in everyone but herself, as her solution to possibly allowing her advice to be lost in a sea of similarly-minded voices is to make sure hers is that loudest voice, as it will be if there are no others around when she has executed them. This could have been some kind of satire on modern British life (Ben Wheatley's Sightseers was a film that cropped up again and again as a comparison point) or even some savage takedown of the business acumen that allows companies to crush their competitors regardless of the ethics, but nope, it appeared Cousins Roe really did have a massive grudge against self-help gurus. If anyone was getting something out of their system, it was him, more so even than his two protagonists, as he you could envisage him rubbing his hands together with glee at the death of yet another snake oil salesman.

If there was an issue with this, aside from the whole killing people being wrong even if they are opportunistic charlatans, it was that Lou and Val started from one place with strongly defined personalities yet never really changed from those opening stages, they refused to consider the barbarity of their actions as the writer and director's self-righteous crusade soldiered on. He did manage to pack in a variety of these targets to a relatively scanty amount of plot, just so the audience knew what to look out for, but he risked implausibility even for something billed as a horror comedy. On the other hand, he did concoct ambiguities that offered his work a curiously dreamlike, if not quite nightmarish, texture, leaving you wondering if Lou and Val may be closer than it might appear, or indeed if any of this wish-fulfilment is actually happening anywhere outside of Lou's mind. Cousins Roe did not allow this to dominate, so we were in no doubt he was in control, a more thematically daring (and oddball) effort than Wheatley's simple grumpiness. Music by Laurence Love Greed.

[A SERIAL KILLER'S GUIDE TO LIFE is out now on iTunes and Digital HD. Click here to buy from iTunes and click here for the film's official site.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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