Have you ever wondered if you’ve crossed paths with a serial killer? Would it surprise you to know that approximately 1% of the population are psychopaths, with much higher percentages in some occupations? Everyone has most assuredly encountered many over the course of their life. Of course, not all psychopaths are serial killers, but the FBI estimates there are up to 50 serial killers operating in the U.S. at any given time. And despite what you might think if you were a fan of Dexter, they don’t all live in Florida. If you’re just a little nervous or fearful about whether or not you have looked into the eyes of a serial killer, The Anatomy of Monsters will surely give you pause.
Directed by Byron C. Miller and written by Paul Morgan, The Anatomy of Monsters imagines the development and inner conflicts that serial killers might go through trying to stay true to their nature while working to fit unnoticed into societal norms. The trick the filmmakers have played on the viewers is to get us to sympathize with a serial killer. As the layers are peeled back, it’s not clear who the serial killer(s) is/are and how many of them there are.
There are four main characters around which the story revolves. We first meet Andrew (Jesse Lee Keeter) as he prepares to go out for the night. Once at his destination, he has a not-so-chance meeting with Sarah (Tabitha Bastien). After a few drinks and some small talk, the two get a room at a nearby hotel. Sarah and Andrew trade stories of their earlier lives through flashbacks. During one of the flashbacks, we learn about Sarah’s best friend, Amy (Keiko Green). Sarah recounts the story about how Amy set her up with Nick (Conner Marx), a blind date that turned into something much more. At this point, it wouldn’t be fair to you or the filmmakers to reveal any further details.
The premise of The Anatomy of Monsters is intriguing and the way the story unfolds keeps the viewer guessing. Who is a serial killer? Who is lying? Who isn’t giving anything away? The story is fascinating and it’s never clear whether we’re hearing from a reliable narrator or not. From the song “For What It’s Worth,” written by Stephen Stills, “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” And that’s the fun of The Anatomy of Monsters.
The film’s screenplay is its strong point as it keeps you guessing while revealing just enough information to hold your interest. Miller and Morgan obviously put a lot of thought into incorporating the characteristics of psychopathic serial killers into the characters and the acting perfectly showcases those characteristics. At first, some of the acting seems a little flat in expression and vocal tone. But those character aspects lend themselves to those of a serial killer whose mask has slipped or who has nothing to gain from, and thus no reason to manipulate a specific individual. Though the acting as a whole was good, Conner Marx, in particular, gave a standout performance.
Surprisingly in a film about serial killers, there’s no graphic violence and very few practical effects. With a body count of eight, the violence is there, but it’s implied rather than shown in an explicit, detailed and graphic depiction. Connecting punches and kicks, knife stabs, and bullet impacts are all slightly off screen or shot at an angle or distance from which the detail can’t be seen. So if you’re looking for graphic gore, it’s not there, but that doesn’t detract from the film.
The films drawbacks are the sound and the score. The sound is uneven – sometimes muffled and too loud in the same scene – and picks up room echoes on some sets. As for the score, instead of unobtrusively setting or enhancing the tone and emotion of a scene, it’s intrusive and at times seems counter to the scene’s needs. At one point during a Halloween kill, the score is far too derivative of John Carpenter’s iconic score for Halloween (1978). I suspect it’s intended as an homage, but instead it’s only annoying.
Despite the shortcomings, The Anatomy of Monsters is a good film. It’s a fascinating, well-acted, well-written study into the lives of serial killers.
The Anatomy of Monsters (3.3 / 5)