Written and Directed by: Mark Vadik
Starring: Danielle Harris, Lance Henriksen, and Brian Krause
Reviewed by: Brett G.
"So you wanna know about Cyrus..."
The mind of a serial killer is probably one of the weirdest, most incomprehensible places you can go, but that hasnít stopped plenty of people from trying. I think itís certainly a fascinating subject thatís made for some fine films; for example, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is one of the best horror films Iíve ever seen, almost despite itself. The similarly titled Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer represents the latest pass at examining madness, at least if you believe its title. Like many other films in this sub-genre, it purports to be ďbased on true events,Ē though I suspect itís a mish-mash of various psychos on record.
Maria Sanchez (Danielle Harris) hosts a tabloid television show and is looking to make the leap from cable to prime time; she hopes her big break will come in the form of a report on ďThe County Line Cannibal,Ē a mysterious man who has supposedly murdered over 200 people in the Midwest. A local man (Lance Henriksen) identifies the killer as a man named Cyrus and agrees to divulge his entire tale--off the record, of course.
The story ends up being a sordid, violent one, if not a bit familiar; thereís a lot of familiar trappings that feel on loan from other flicks. Thereís some slasher and torture bits, some macabre dark humor (at least I think weíre supposed to chuckle at Cyrusís oblivious patrons eating a mysterious meat called ďroad killĒ), and the usual serial killer psychosis. Itís also a slickly produced film rather than being obliquely grim, which means Cyrus falls somewhere between being genuinely disturbing and unusually entertaining. Donít get me wrong--youíre not likely to feel good about yourself after watching it, but itís not going to give you nightmares or make you any more disturbed about serial killers than you already are.
Our title character is basically your standard psychotic whose background outrageously fated him to gut people for a living. Heís got daddy issues and mommy issues (though I think weíd all settle to have Tiffany Shepis as our mom, but thatís neither here nor there), he spends time as a military prisoner, and his bitch wife leaves him (and their baby) for a traveling salesman (needless to say, he doesnít travel much further when Cyrus catches them in the act). Brian Krause gives an interesting performance--heís sort of got this ďgood old boyĒ charm thatís obviously at odds with his maniacal side. You kind of feel sorry for him at times, especially when he gives into the delusion that one of his victims is really his dead wife; this leads to one of the filmís more twisted sequences where he attempts to recreate domestic life, right down to forcing the girl to breast-feed his son.
Thatís one of many violent deeds, as the film is pretty gruesome, which will please the gorehounds. Mutilations via shotgun, axes, knives, and more await. One sequence even features an elaborate trap that would make Jigsaw proud, though it comes without that horror iconís twisted sense of morality. This isnít to say that Cyrus doesnít have scruples--he actually does target those he feels deserve their fate (hint: donít broadcast your infidelity around this guy). Though I donít think youíd call this a really smart film, it does try to do some interesting things by interspersing clips featuring other serial killers from Harrisís tabloid show; itís kind of a half-hearted examination that just lets us crawl around into some more scummy minds. Speaking of Harris, sheís fine; genre fans get her and Henriksen in actual roles, though they donít really have much to do since most of the film is told as a giant flashback.
Cyrus as a whole is pretty much fine; it doesnít do a whole lot to be inventive, and itís a polished mix of gore showcase and half-baked character study that manages to be fun (well, as fun as this type of movie can be anyway). For a sophomore effort by Vadik, it sure isnít bad, and Iíll probably keep my eye on him. Anchor Bay brought his film home on DVD a couple of weeks ago, and itís got a fine anamorphic widescreen transfer--the black levels are solid, and itís mostly artifact free. The 5.1 soundtrack is pretty active for the most part, but this is sort of a dialogue heavy affair more than anything. A behind the scenes featurette represents the lone special feature, but I managed to pick this one up for ten bucks the week of release; if you can snag it for a half that, grab it, but youíre probably better off saving this one for the rental queue. Rent it!
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