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Friday, June 17, 2011

CYRUS: MIND OF A SERIAL KILLER -- DVD review by porfle

With decent production values and a cast of genre veterans including Brian Krause (SLEEPWALKERS), Danielle Harris (HALLOWEEN series), and Lance Henriksen (just about everything else), writer-director Mark Vadik's CYRUS: MIND OF A SERIAL KILLER (2010) is an unexpectedly nasty tale that plumbs the depths of depravity without really drawing the viewer into its web of horror.

Cyrus (Krause) is an ex-POW who dreams of settling down on his own farm with his wife, Maybelle (Patricia Belcher).  But her dream is to move to the city and she throws a red-hot fit at the sight of their new rural digs.  Already unbalanced by years of childhood abuse at the hands of his prostitute mother (a scary Tiffany Shepis), Cyrus goes over the edge when he catches Maybelle with a salesman and does away with them along with his infant child.
He serves the adulterous couple up as tasty "roadkill burgers" at his popular new roadside eatery, but with business thriving, he finds it necessary to procure more meat by murdering as many as 200 people over the next few years.  Mostly college students from out of town, Cyrus' victims are either subjected to horrible tortures in his barn or hunted down like animals for sport before being butchered.

Krause does a good job of portraying a quietly seething serial killer whose madness is mostly internalized until something provokes him.  Unlike the usual murder addict, he tends to act only when people meet certain conditions, such as being rude, cursing, reminding him of his "bastard" status, or flaunting their infidelity--basically, anything reminding him of his abusive mother and cheating wife.

Much of the story concerns three young women who get on Cyrus' bad side for reasons stated above, one of which bears a resemblance to Maybelle both in looks and temperament.  A long, arduous sequence involves Cyrus forcing her to assume his former wife's role in a fantasy scenario that just doesn't turn out the way he imagines it (the breastfeeding scene is particularly grotesque).  What eventually happens to her and at least one of her caged friends results in some shockingly gruesome images that might make you think about how far splatter films have come since the seminal BLOOD FEAST.

Strangely enough, though, even horrifyingly graphic stuff such as this is presented in a sedate, low-key style that doesn't come anywhere near the shock and raw terror of something like the original TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE.  Hardly scary or generating any really riveting suspense, CYRUS seems interested only in telling a bizarre story with a succession of overtly off-putting images. 

The unreality of the film's slick, decidedly non-cinema verite' style distances us from the action even further.  Cyrus is presented as such a semi-sympathetic figure that he bears little resemblance to the monstrous real-life serial killers whose collective deeds reportedly inspired the story.  Much of the film's suspense, in fact, comes from our fear that he will be caught when a dogged state investigator shows up looking for the missing girls.

Still, there are a few pretty wicked twists to the story and the wraparound segments are interesting.  Danielle Harris plays an ambitious reality-TV journalist sniffing out the story of the unknown killer, interviewing a creepy old man (Henriksen) who claims not only to know Cyrus but to have been present during his most heinous crimes.

There's little doubt as to where this whole sequence is headed, but the two stars make it interesting and it ultimately builds to a pretty effective conclusion.  This is followed by a couple more unnecessary endings and a lengthy post-titles segment that ponders the pros and cons of the death penalty.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.  Subtitles are in English.  Extras consist of a making-of featurette and a trailer.

Well-made and reasonably involving, CYRUS: MIND OF A SERIAL KILLER nevertheless didn't strike me as all that memorable compared to many of the more effective films of its ilk.  Needless to say, it has nothing on the less graphic but infinitely more disturbing HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER.  It does, however, serve up a generous helping of grue for gorehounds to gorge themselves on.

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