September 21, 2013
Aaron Schwartz as Aaron Schartz
Erin Schwartz as Erin Schwartz
Jennifer Brian as Eileen Jennifer Brian
Aaron Schwartz is an ambitious, but frustrated young man. All his life, he has felt himself capable of greatness – destined for fame. In high school he concluded that the best way to be remembered was to kill people – lots of people. Only mass murderers and serial killers remained on the lips of men past for all time. Not in possession of an army that could roll over the plains of Central Asia, Aaron became determined to count himself among the Gacys and Dahmers. He obsessively studied them and other precedent-setters as a youth. Yet, now in his late twenties, he finds himself adrift and unable to kill. The closest he came to the act was when he pretended that he broke his leg to attract pity from a potential victim … Instead of killing the sweet girl that came to his aid, he wound up marrying her. Perhaps he had been mistaken about himself. Maybe infamy isn’t for him. But just when Aaron is at his lowest, he makes the acquaintance of an experienced serial killer – one who eventually agrees to help him overcome his hesitancy to kill.
21st Century Serial Killer is one of the more unique micro-budget horror films available. As with other films in this class, the sets are relatively simple and uninspired. The effects are bare-bones and the camera angles limited. The script is dry and lifeless in places and the acting is mediocre with the exception of Aaron (he stars as himself) and his mentor (mentioning the person’s name would spoil the suspense) – each of whom do a fair job of selling their respective characters and winning allegiance from the audience. Aaron’s performance in the last third of the film is particularly noteworthy. His frustration becomes palpable to the point that we hope he can overcome his inhibitions – like all champions – and finally kill someone.
The plot of training someone to be a serial killer at their request is not new. In fact during several sequences, viewers will be reminded of Mr. Brooks (2007) and Kevin Costner’s reluctant efforts to train his protégé. But 21st Century Serial Killer puts a (once contemplated) uniquely disturbing twist on matters. Aaron is just an average person without a history of abuse or aberrant sexuality. He just wants fame… And the most likely way for him to reach the pinnacle in – it doesn’t really matter what – is to kill people. (Hence, the first two words in the title.) 21st Century Serial Killer is thus well-suited to the fame obsessed culture that has spawned in the United States with the advent of reality TV shows, You Tube and Twitter. Fame is what’s important – not the reason behind the fame. Hence, a relatively simple plot hides a subtext germane to society’s current condition and (possibly) prescient of the motives behind future deviance.
Although a bit of a slow burn, the prolonged lead-up to the final half hour is worth the wait as Aaron and his mentor set out on a killing spree like no other – claiming almost a dozen lives over a 24-hour period. During this ‘killer’ cram session, Aaron is exposed to all the tricks used by the great ones. His nervous excitement during the murders is contrasted by his mentor’s carefree just-out-for-a-good-time attitude. In many ways, Aaron’s behavior is reminiscent of a teenage virgin who is trying to close the deal: He shuts his eyes and concentrates really hard when the moment finally comes – even as his companion moves from kill to kill with reckless abandon. The chemistry and personality juxtaposition between them as they stab, choke and shoot others brings a smile and turns an extremely low-budget slasher film into a highly entertaining horror-comedy. In the end both get what they want, but not in a way that’s altogether predictable.
Bottom Line: If you appreciate visual storytelling with entertaining personalities and a unique conclusion, but don’t mind (extremely) low production values, you will enjoy 21st Century Serial Killer.