Released: 29th November 2019
Seen: 19th April
About a month ago today I received a list of films from The Movie Agency, 6 in total that I thought would take me a long time to get through because I still had a bunch of movies in the cinema to check out and a ton of Netflix stuff so I was going to work through them at about one a week and see where that got me… and then someone stupidly read out loud from the contagious disease version of the Necronomicon and I found myself stuck at home with nothing in the cinemas and needing to do something to kill time for the next month. On the whole I have to say that these films have been interesting experiences, probably not films I would’ve selected to watch and review on my own but each one did offer me something interesting even if I didn’t like all of them. From the very start though I knew there was one film I wanted to save until last. Partially because it was the longest and I am nothing if not predictable in enjoying shorter films but also because it seemed like it was going to be the best and I wanted a high note… of course, having seen Necrologies and fallen in love with Pozu I now can’t see this as the high note of the list I had provided to me, but it’s still really really good.
My Mentor the Serial Killer: Tony follows 4 psychology students who have teamed up to do an assignment. They’ve been asked to make a psychological profile of someone but they don’t want to do profiles of janitors or nurses, they want a challenge. They want to do a profile on someone who has done something seriously wrong and so to find someone perfect for their assignment they sneak a recording device into the church confessional. They end up stumbling upon a serial killer named Tony (Yashodhan Rana) and decide that he’ll be a perfect subject for their assignment. The more they interview him though, the more they want to be like him and are soon joining him on a murder spree that’s got the local police hot on their tail.
Told mostly in flashbacks, the film creates this story of how one truly bad influence can push people over the edge. The four students seem a little bit eager and weird, but you wouldn’t really peg them as potential killers until they spend a little bit of time with Tony and soon enough they’re not only actively helping him by holding his victims legs down but they’re actually the ones doing a lot of the murders. It’s sad watching them slowly descend into murderers while this stoic serial killer watches them continue his work. There’s a few scenes where they’re just watching him work and you can see them slowly go from creeped out to into it and it’s effectively unnerving.
As I watched this I kept comparing it mentally to another film where a bunch of teenagers follow a serial killer, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, because the two of them have a very similar idea but very different outcomes. Behind the Mask was a dark satire of horror movies but Tony is a lot more grounded, not winking to the audience about the insanity of having a bunch of teens turn so willingly into serial killers. It’s definitely still a character study and one of the more fascinating ones out there, even with the final twist that kind of lands but not as well as it could’ve. The final twist does give our lead actor a chance to really show his chops as a performer and for that scene alone I would suggest giving this film a look.
It’s really well shot, using the camera well to create a sense of dread that lasts most of the film. There are a few shots that’re iffy, namely anytime they told the poor camera guy to walk while holding the camera (unless you have a Steadicam setup, that shot’s NEVER going to look good) and a few too many dutch angles that really add nothing but for the most part it works and helps sell the idea. Considering this is the writer/directors first time actually directing a film, it’s really impressive so keep an eye on this guy because he definitely has something.
If I were to really give this film one big punch it’s that it’s pacing is so slow that I caught myself tuning out on occasion, not aided by the subtitles on the copy I had. Pure white subtitles in a film with a lot of light on white floor or hand reflection, makes it hard to keep up with the dialogue. Even if I had been able to keep up with every single word though, the film takes it’s time, especially around the end when it felt like it was doing multiple endings when it didn’t need to.
On the whole, My Mentor the Serial Killer: Tony is a gripping little drama that throws in a few twists for a genuinely enjoyable experience. You have a fascinating lead that we slowly unpack over two hours, making for a fascinating little film. Some mild stumbles and subtitle issues hold it back a little but I can’t deny that this is a great time so hunt it down if you can… it’s not like you’re going out (Right? Please don’t be one of those idiots trying to go out now for no reason, please!)