Judge Daryl Loomis knew a guy who ate roadkill; he claimed armadillo shells made great soup.
I don't cook anything I don't kill myself.
Every horror fan knows that big city types should stay out of small town people's lives. It's never a good idea, no matter why they've come. Yet they do, and they die, and we have to watch them in a thousand hackneyed gut munchers. Still, it doesn't always have to be so bad, and Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer is a good example. While it doesn't come close to the best of rural horror, it does make a solid case for itself with decent story execution and good performances.
Maria (Danielle Harris, 2007's Halloween) hosts a show on cold case mysteries and has come to a small town to investigate the disappearances of a number of young women over the last couple of decades. She gets a lead from an evasive old man named Emmett (Lance Henriksen, Millennium), who has plenty of information but a weird reluctance to share. When Maria finally gets him talking, though, he tells a gruesome tale of Cyrus (Brian Krause, Charmed) a local restaurateur and mass murderer. Emmett knows too many details for his story to be anecdotal; this man is close to Cyrus, and if Maria plays her cards right, he might even introduce them to each other.
The only big problem with Cyrus is predictability, but that's a problem for horror in general, so I can't really fault the film too strongly. Still, when the plot points start coming up and you find yourself believing it's going to go a certain way, you are almost certainly right. Just because you know where it's going, though, doesn't mean that it can't be a fun ride. The premise is very similar to the recent documentary-style horror flick, The Last Exorcism, and I like both for their compact film-within-film storylines and tiny casts. They are completely different films, but as also happens in the great [REC], this two person cameraman/host setup apparently works on me.
Cyrus tells a pair of stories that follow the same path. We have the overriding narrative involving the television production and the story that Emmett tells. That story is the story of Cyrus, told as biography from a close friend. He makes Cyrus somewhat sympathetic, a victim of circumstance. As Emmett gets to the meat of his story, he focuses on three particular victims, three vacationing girls. The story takes on some torture porn elements here, but it is designed to horrify the person in front of Emmett as much as the audience. When that story finishes with twenty minutes left in the movie, it's pretty clear things aren't going to go well for Maria.
The real asset of the film is in the performances, especially Lance Henriksen. It's not a great script, but he puts in an excellent turn as Emmett. He has no real action in the film; he just narrates the story, but he is the strongest character here. Brian Krause is also good as the title character, convincingly portraying both embittered husband and psychotic fiend. Lead Danielle Harris is strong, as well, but her role is a little too much of the smirking skeptic for me to really care about her fate. Director Mark Vadik (The Thirsting) doesn't a lot of blood in the film, but it's so grim and violent that it left me with a much more gruesome memory than actually exists. That's a very good attribute.
Anchor Bay's DVD for Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer isn't special, but it's fairly solid. The image looks like a modern indie horror film, which is all we can expect, but the surround sound is surprisingly active. There were a few genuinely creepy moments with the rear speakers, mostly involving baby noise, which I must admit is a trigger for me. The dialog is clear and the music, mostly delta blues and southern rock, sounds pretty good throughout. The only extras are a trailer and a twenty minute making-of piece, which is pretty interesting, as those things go.
If horror fans don't go into Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer with heightened expectations, there's a good time to be had here. Anyway, a movie with Lance Henriksen is always worth watching, at least a little bit.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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