Cyrus Mind Of A Serial Killer
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Cyrus Mind Of A Serial Killer

 

Of all the types of criminals that strike out against the order of our society arguably one of the most heinous is the serial killer. A man with this darkest predilection will go out among the unsuspecting public hunting and murder his prey as easily as you might order a cup of coffee from the local diner. When a killer of this nature is made known, the media goes into their feeding frenzy viding for the most gruesome details fanning the fear that consumes the population. In a strange symbiosis, the public is frightened, but they can’t get enough of the grizzly details becoming infatuated with every nuance the can get their hand on. This is far from a recent phenomenon. Edwardian London held in panic has Jack the Ripper murdered young women driving up sales of newspapers and penny dreadful, the tabloid news of the time. Names like ‘Son of Sam,' ‘The Boston Strangler’ and ‘Ted Bundy’ live on in infamy spawning books, television series and films long after the headlines of their dark exploits have faded. Perhaps this fascination with serial killers that can endure the changes in our underlying culture is at least in part ingrained in our genetic composition. They are, after all, the most cunning and dangerous predator our species has ever faced, and fascination leads to awareness, and a case could be made that this is a survival trait. There is also the drive within us that rides the adrenalin rush that accompanies being scared. This is well documented by the revenue generated by horror films and the constant escalation of the grisly effects employed to frighten the audience. Most of the killers in those flicks are of the supernatural variety; bogeymen designed by innovated writers to reach down into the primeval fears within each of us. On the other hand, the serial killers arise from the ranks of mortal man. The chances of actually encountering a person like Ed Gein are within the realm of possibility unlike the likelihood of Freddie Kruger stepping out of a dream with his razor sharp fingers. While I have enjoyed the studio treatment of serial killers in movies as a thriller or even a horror flick but for a deeper psychological examination of the topic, I tend to prefer the take typically afforded to the independent filmmaker. Without the hindrance of fiscally obsessed studio executives, the filmmaker is afforded greater latitude in presenting his vision of this darkest aspect of the human contention. One of the movies of this sort I recent watch exemplified this; ‘Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer.' It is a sullen almost depressing look at a man obsessed with taking human lives; realistically it couldn’t work any another way.

Everyone’s mind is going to go here so I might as well get it out of the way; my best friend looked at the DVD and immediately imagined a certain pop princess going on a sativa fueled killing spree. Fortunately, any similarities in names used with persons struggling to remain famous are purely coincidental. The titular Cyrus here, remarkably well presented by former ‘Charmed’ hero Brian Krause is compelled to stalk and murder young women. Every serial killer worth his salt requires a suitably horrific no de voyage and the local press came up with a sensationalistic one for Cyrus; ‘County Line Cannibal.' It’s got alliteration and references a taboo act, so it was certain to catch on rapidly. One reporter out to cover the murder spree is Maria Sanchez (Danielle Harris) hoping to scope the competition with an angle unavailable to her competition. Maria comes across Emmett (Lance Henriksen), an odd man claiming to be a friend of the serial killer. Despite the potential for personal danger, this approach on the story is far too seductive for the young reporter to pass. In what has become mandatory for the genre the story is allegedly based on facts although I cannot discern any particular Modus operandi attributable to a specific killer. Most likely Cyrus’ methodology is culled from a mélange of murders. In any case, the lack of veracity does not diminish the emotional and visceral effect of the movie. The film opens in a deceptively Hackney fashion. After a heavily made-up young woman comments on someone’s mommy and daddy issues while smoking a cigarette the scene immediately shifts to a dark blue shot of a car parked in an isolated wooded area. You can hear the playfully chanting song of children as the camera pans to the car. This opening is misleading, wonderfully dishonest to the audience. It leads you to jump to the conclusion that you are about to sit through yet another poorly made horror flick. The truth of the matter is just the opposite. What follows is a tightly crafted film that balances the visceral gore devotees of horror now expect with a deeply disturbing psychological thriller that is gripping in the way it seeps into your consciousness as you watch. It turns out the nursery rhyme opening was the news segment Maria is preparing in hopes of making it into prime time. This has another more subtle effect, keeping the audience off balance unable to fully trust what they see. This allows the mind to take over part of the job of fright; something far more effective than any display of blood and guts.

Mark Vadik has come upon an interesting way to present the story. He surrounded it in the guise of an episode of ‘Final Steps,' a local television ‘reality horror’ show. There are so many similar shows actually in production that the audience falls comfortably into the premise further blurring their need to separate fact from fiction. This is heightened by the use of characters in the film playing the part of the talking head experts this kind of TV program would inevitably contain. When this is augmented by brilliant casting choices such as well established scream Queen Tiffany Shepis as the killer’s mother, the result is far above the woeful average this genre currently exhibits. He paces the story slower, more deliberate from the pack of wannabe horror masters. The story unfolds like a fire under a pot of water. You know it will eventually come to a boil, but it seems to happen all at once. The performances are exceptional. I think it is now a bylaw in the SAG constitution to have a certain percentage of low budget horror roles must go to Henriksen. His craggy face and dark demeanor are perfect in these parts, and few actors have the extensive experience in psychological thrillers possessed by this talented man. After building a career as the handsome hero, it is great to see Krause stretch as an actor donning a bead and sinister gaze to play the killer. He can be as creepy as he can heroic. This film will surprise you in just how effective it is a scary movie for a dark and stormy night’s entertainment.

Posted 06/11/11q            08/16/2017

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