After serial killer Andrew sets out for another night of hunting, he encounters the attractive and nerdy Sarah in a bar and after some intellectual flirting they are soon heading to an anonymous motel room. What follows is a series of confessions and mind games that gradually reveal the extent to which neither of them are who they claimed, even to themselves.
Anatomy of Monsters feels a little like a stage play, with lengthy dialogue-driven scenes that focus far more on character than action, allowing you deep inside the heads of killers and what drives them while also preventing them from truly feeling anything about the deaths afterwards.
It’s not much of a spoiler to reveal that Sarah is also a serial killer and was hunting Andrew as much as he thought he was hunting her. The dynamic between them during the series of shifting manipulations is fascinating to watch, as are the stories Sarah weaves of the development of her craft alongside a fledgling romantic relationship. She is by far the more prominent of the pair, as her tales take up much of the film’s running time, and despite sitting prone on a bed with her arms handcuffed behind her back and facing a guy brandishing a hunting knife, it still feels like she’s the one in control.
As the evidently less experienced of the two, Andrew becomes as drawn into Sarah’s story as the viewer, and you can practically hear him taking notes in his head as she relates the manners of her kills. With the tacit implication that only one of them will be walking away from the encounter, it’s difficult to get a read on what each of them ultimately expects to get from the other, while a faint pulse of tension runs throughout as you consider what they envision happening once things reach a conclusion.
It becomes clear that Sarah’s desire to kill manifests as a compulsion, but over time also mutates into self-loathing. As she begins to define herself more and more by her killings, she becomes increasingly convinced she is undeserving of the fulfilment she has quite clearly already found, and, whether consciously or otherwise, attempts to sabotage her own happiness to bring her life more in line with what she feels she deserves.
A very human story about people whose actions by definition separate them from humanity, Anatomy of Monsters is a subtle and low-key character study with few stand-out moments or extreme revelations. The tales of grounded and unremarkable murder pull you in to a killer’s world of twisted urges and personal rituals, while their juxtaposition with everyday life demands you judge their perpetrators not as killers, but as people. The banality of evil has never been so compelling.
ANATOMY OF MONSTERS / CERT: TBA / DIRECTOR: BYRON C MILLER / SCREENPLAY: BYRON C MILLER, PAUL MORGAN / STARRING: TABITHA BASTIEN, JESSE LEE KEETER, CONNER MARX, KEIKO GREEN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (VOD)