I was interested in seeing this movie because it was filmed in the town I grew up in. I had never read the book, so I can't compare the two. It's a great movie for it's budget. It's kind of mystery/horror. I won't spoil it, but it turned out far different than I expected. Christopher Lloyd is great as the creepy old man. This film has a old 80s or 90s feel to it. It's not like the newer movies that are fast paced and have all these jump scares in it, or just straight up gore fests. It has a slower pace that's enough to keep your interest and keep you guessing.
I am a huge fan of the John Cleaver books, and of Dan Wells' other books, so I was SO looking forward to this movie. Luckily this is one of the closest screen adaptations I have ever seen from a book, with the exception of the ending. In general, I'm not a huge horror fan, so I was nervous about what the movie would be like. The good news is that it is not "campy" or gore-filled, or loud, or scary even. There is much more suspense and intricacy with this movie. It is creepy, but not too over-the-top...more of a psychological thriller. Kind of like Silence of the Lambs, only with supernatural elements and not so much fake blood. I honestly don't know if you would like the movie without being a fan of the books first, but the idea behind the whole thing --a teenager who is worried that he's turning into a serial killer notices that another serial killer moves into town-- is such a good premise for a story, that you should buy the books and see which you like better. IMO- the books win, hands down, but the movie holds its own.
THINGS I LIKED ABOUT THE MOVIE: Max Records was great as John; I do not think anyone else could have played this character with such a depth and sincerity. Even though he wasn't the "look" I pictured for John when I initially read the books, he was perfect. So much of the books happen in John's internal dialogue and thought processes, that I was really doubtful that someone could pull that off. He does, and he nails it! Every expression is done for a purpose and is on point, perfectly timed, and beautifully done. Other good performances were Mr. Crawly, April (mom), Aunt Margaret, and his friend Max. And I was also surprised by how much I liked the actor who played the therapist. Combined, they really did a good job in their portrayals and made the book come alive on screen. I also liked the "indy" feel of the movie because this isn't a story that needs romanticized too much. Personally, I like the stories because of how creepy John is, and the low-budget, poor lighting, bad special effects and non-perfect sound effects/soundtrack really ADDED to the movie. It makes it more "real"-- which is odd to say for a supernatural horror story. But there is no flashy Hollywood-glam aspect that would have taken away from the characterization of the story- so most of the time you're spending it thinking about the actors and what their characters are thinking/feeling, and anticipating what happens next, which is what a movie should do.
THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT THE MOVIE Brooke. Ugh. The actress not only did NOT look anything like the character was supposed to, but the actress was awful and she added nothing to the story. You could have cut out the three or four scenes where she makes an appearance for 5 seconds and been perfectly fine- the movie would have lost nothing. And if the movie wouldn't have suffered with the elimination of her character, then she obviously it wasn't well done. What sucks most about Brook, though, is that one of the main purposes for her character in the first book is for you to see how creepy John is-- how he obsesses over this girl (and is showing signs of sociopathy and on his way to becoming a serial killer), but in the movie she acts waaaaay more obsessed with him than he does with her. Yeah, he eventually develops some type of weird, twisted feelings for her, but none of that comes across in the movie. Lauren. I didn't like the fact that the sister not only looked nothing like the rest of the family, but that she looked older than the mom. She's supposed to be a college student, not a mid-thirties woman. Her performance was just meh. When compared to the rest of the cast, she and Brooke really brought the show way down. Kay Crawly was too healthy and robust. Just not old and frail enough. Her acting was okay though- so I am willing to admit that this is just me being picky, I guess. John had to help Mr. Crawly to the bathroom. Really? I mean, I knew they were close, but that was a bit much. I guess you could give the director bonus points for creeping out the audience one way or another. OK- and the thing that bothered me the most (other than Brooke) is the ending. It was so ANTI-CLIMATIC. It's really not that they changed the ending (because sometimes you have to for visual purposes), but they did it this way. REALLY? It took all of the trauma out of the "battle scene" and left the movie feeling incomplete. That's it? Well, guess we'd better clean all this black sludge up... (MINOR SPOILER ALERT) And how plausible is it that the antagonist who kills to stay alive the whole movie would NOT go down fighting? Common!
So even though it sounds like I'm complaining about the movie, the positives were so much more positive, that overall I really enjoyed it. If I wasn't a fan of the books, I probably would have given it three stars instead of four. But the ability to bring one of my favorite stories to life in a fairly true-to-form fashion bumps it up for me. (So if the books are 5 stars, and the movie is good, but not as good as the books, that makes them 4 stars, right?!) By far not the best movie I've ever seen, but I definitely would recommend it. EDIT: if you look at the reviews, the people giving it high marks are already fans of the book, so they understand -and love- what's happening. People who haven't read it don't seem as pleased. So maybe you should read the book first for an enjoyable film experience?? I mean, as a fan of the series, that's my recommendation either way. One reviewer stated "It was boring, I wish John had been a real serial killer!" Spoiler alert: HE IS, this movie is about his first kill...although the movie takes that away from him and thats why the fans are all complaining about the changed ending.
An odd bird of a film. A teenage boy from a small Midwestern town is classified as a sociopath and spends an inordinate amount of time wondering when he'll 'crack'. Between musings, he takes it upon himself to investigate the work of a serial killer on the loose. What he discovers places his own life on the line. But what makes this so compelling is not the murders as much as the central character (played by Max Records) - you would expect, from his diagnosis, that he would be callous, unemotional, even exploitative. As much as he tries, though, he can't make himself fit into that horrible mold. The murders make him feel vulnerable and sad and, in some way, guilty. His character is redeemed at the end - the kid is really just morbid and a touch too blunt. The acting is terrific and helps to make up for a couple of plot holes on the way. A horror film, to be sure, but one that is satisfying in very unique way.
I enjoyed this movie very much. I love the off beat kind of stories, it is great to run across a truly different scary story from time to time. The boy in it was an excellent actor. Some monster I just love to hate, I guess...
Intense and chilling. Great viewing for a Fall night. It's technically unrated, but I would put it at about a pg-13 rating. My thirteen-year-old son read the book and watched the movie and enjoyed both of them very much.
The books are a good read. the movie is okay - the way the film is shot is pretty cool. The problem with this movie like so many others - where there is a ton of narration in the book - there is none in the movie. You do not get the full sense of the character John Wayne Cleaver. It followed the book pretty well though. My daughter liked it a lot. Could be a cult classic if she had her way :)