By David Dent
Staten Cousins Roe’s debut feature is a kind of Nietzschean study of the self, filtered through Ben Wheatley’s ‘Sightseers’, in which we meet eternally drab Lou (Katie Brayben), a young woman who is the unofficial carer for her domineering mother.
Lou is addicted to self help books, including those by Tony Robbins-a-like Chuck Knoah (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), although there are no signs yet of any self-improvement going on. A mood board in her bedroom tells us that Lou desires a life beyond the four walls of her home.
While watching a flared trousered motivational speaker she meets icy Val (Poppy Roe), herself a self-help guru, but with a difference: she is also a serial killer. After a brief meeting/grooming session with Val, Lou takes the drastic step of agreeing to accompany her new life coach on a road trip to meet Chuck Knoah in person. Lou abandons her mother and the pair take off. On the way to Knoah’s country retreat, they encounter a succession of dodgy therapists, including an outward bound tree hugger and a couple using sound like their way back to health, who spike their drinks and get the dildos out.
Lou is rather slow on the uptake that before they move on from each therapist Val (rather bloodlessly as it happens – it’s not that kind of film) despatches them, and the pair soon become the subject of a (wo)man hunt across the south coast area, as they move closer and closer to the self-important Knoah, who it seems isn’t quite the confident self-improver he makes himself out to be.
‘A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life’ is a rather throwaway film, but in its world of static caravans and the quiet beauty of the south coast of England (it was filmed in the hinterlands of Brighton) it has a certain charm. It’s all about the performances really.
As Val Poppy Rose remains staunchly one note in her performance, and if the audience were expecting Lou’s caterpillar to emerge as a self-discovered butterfly, well the director isn’t about to do that. What he does is to take the spirit of ‘Thelma & Louise’ in capturing the freedom and nihilism of the girls’ trip. There may only be one way out for them, but they’re enjoying the ride on the way.
A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life will be released on 13th January 2020 by Arrow Films on digital platforms.