DVD Review: ‘Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer’

As technology gets smaller and cheaper, making films is getting easier and easier. But in a market lousy with low-budget indies, it’s not always easy to score well known actors. This wasn’t a problem for Mark Vadik.

The writer/director of Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer somehow managed to wrangle several seasoned actors for parts of various size, including Brian Krause (Charmed), Danielle Harris (multiple Halloween films), Doug Jones (Hellboy), and the irreplaceable Lance Henriksen. As you watch the film, the obvious question that comes to mind is, How?

Cyrus is a frame story in which TV journalist Maria Sanchez, looking for fodder for her tabloid news show, interviews a man who claims to know the identity of a local serial killer. He tells her and her cameraman the sad tale of Cyrus, a former soldier who, when his marriage and business fell apart, turned to murder and cannibalism.

Gore effects certainly aren’t the most important aspect of a film, even in the slasher genre, but their verisimilitude must be kept at a certain standard just to keep the suspension of disbelief. The bargain basement effects in Cyrus aren’t egregious, but they do seem several years out of date. The cinematography is actually a bit varied, alternating between poor and very poor, mostly during flashbacks.

Of course, you can’t always tell during production how the finished product will look. Actors often have to judge a project by the script alone. This script is the worst of both worlds: pretentious but utterly meaningless. Cyrus takes itself very seriously, purporting to be an exploration into the innermost workings of a madman ala Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (after which they clearly modelled their title).

But apart from a few heavy-handed flashbacks and unconnected outbursts, Cyrus’s motivations are hardly brought up and never actually examined. Cyrus seems to kill for many unrelated reasons. His wife cheats, his mother was immodest and cartoonishly cruel, he likes to cook and eat people. It’s almost as if Vadik just throws every motivation he can think of against the wall, sees what sticks, and then picks up the remnants from the floor and uses those as well.

The film also cuts frequently to doc-style talking heads in which faux experts spout shallow facts and opinions about serial killers in general. These cutaways are out of place and their purpose is unclear; perhaps they were intended to give the film pseudo-psychological weight. The DVD’s sole special feature, a making-of featurette, reinforces this theory as Vadik waxes intellectual about what is essentially a Troma picture without the campy charm.

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