There is something oddly charming about British black comedies. Often dealing with very dark subject matters, they are presented in a light and fluffy manner that just tickles the funny bone. In this case, Staten Cousins Roe’s A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life is about a secluded and isolated woman finding herself enamoured by a murderous life coach.
Lou (Katie Brayben) is a nice and quiet young woman who lives with her overly demanding mother. She devotes everything to her, giving up on whatever dreams she may have had for herself. Until one day she attends a self-help seminar and meets Val (Poppy Roe in a fierce red lipstick), who is the polar opposite of Lou. Val is a confident and stoic woman who has a very demanding presence. She is exactly what Lou strives to be and decides to tag along with Val on a journey of self-discovery.
The movie has a very simple narrative and isn’t overly complicated in its presentation of its ideas. However, if one is not paying attention there are certain plot points that may go over your head, especially in the third act. The story is anchored by the idea of what happens when quiet desperation finally cannot be contained. What happens when someone finally snaps and becomes disillusioned by the thing that once gave them hope? Lou is struggling to find purpose and direction but is looking in all the wrong places, and what ensues is a hilariously dark and morbid journey.
A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life is bone dry in its comedy and effectively presents its points through a very relatable struggle. Although the average person won’t get entangled with murder, the self-help craze can lead to the wrong decisions. Seeking guidance from within or from others is tricky and doesn’t always aid in one’s journey to fulfilment. This film simply exaggerates that point, whilst making fun of a phenomenon that has been built up by desperate souls like Lou. And, Val is the logical response to the insanity of it all. The script is rather clever in presenting Lou and Val as these reflections of the true and insidious nature of this community.
If this were an American film, it would be a rather sombre tale of the destructive nature of disillusionment, but luckily it’s not. From beginning to end the film is a quintessential British black comedy, and it works very well. The most crucial aspect that makes this whole thing work is the cast, who are on point with balancing the absurd comedic moments with the more serious tones.
All in all, the film is a bloody good time.
A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life is now available on digital
by Ferdosa Abdi
Ferdosa Abdi (she/her) is a lifelong film student and aspiring film festival programmer. Her favourite genres are science-fiction, fantasy, and horror and her favourite director is Guillermo del Toro. She is madly in love with Eva Green and believes she should be cast in everything. You can follow Ferdosa on Twitter @atomicwick