It’s common to use the “based on a true story” or “inspired by true events” taglines to sell serial killer flicks. Save for very few examples, however, these sensationalistic claims are tangential at best (even in the supposed ‘bio-pics’), and that appears to once again be the case with the new direct-to-DVD serial killer flick, Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer. Seeing as how I can’t seem to find any information on the “County Line Cannibal” upon whose crimes the film professes to be based, I can only assume Cyrus is an amalgam of several serial killer archetypes, all of which have existed at one point or another, thus giving the producers the right to claim it’s true. As disingenuous as the tactic is, it does lend these films an edge, and, as is the case with the uninspired Cyrus, the vast majority of these films need all the help they can get.
The film centers on young reporter, Maria Sanchez (Danielle Harris), and her investigation into the disappearances of a trio of coed types in a small Midwestern town thought to be the latest victims of the aforementioned County Line Cannibal. Maria’s investigation leads her, along with cameraman, Tom (Tony Yalda), to a reclusive old fella named Emmett (Lance Henrikson); a man who not only claims to know the identity of the Cannibal, but also considers himself his one and only friend. To prove himself, he presents Maria with a box full of photo IDs belonging to dozens of the killer’s victims, and then goes on to tell her the story of his old friend Cyrus (Brian Krause). It’s here we’re given the de rigueur origin story, detailing Cyrus’ formative years, including a stint in a P.O.W. camp, an unfaithful spouse who served as the impetus for his descent into madness, and the means through which the butcher-by-trade disposes of his wife and her lover’s bodies (burgers anyone?). Emmett’s fantastical story goes on to tell of the popularity of Cyrus’ burgers, and the two hundred victims he’d go on to procure to keep up with his customer’s demands, but the bulk of the tale is dedicated to his final group of victims; most prominently, the missing college girls –one of whom bears more than a passing resemblance to his long-dead wife.
Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer is a violent and occasionally disturbing little movie, with solid (for a Straight-to-DVD flick, anyway) production values, and a very impressive performance by Brian Krause, who, with his still-boyish looks and understated delivery, makes for a surprisingly effective and borderline-sympathetic villain. While Henrikson and Harris do their best with what they’re given in the film’s (predictable) wraparound story, the meat of this cannibal tale lay in Krause’s performance; one which should certainly turn more than a few casting director’s heads. Sadly, as strong as Krause is, not even he can save Cyrus from devolving into yet another formulaic torture porn flick chock full of unflinching scenes of torment and brutality, and hastily sketched victims we couldn’t care less about. Writer/Director Mark Vadik shows a flare for the genre, with tight direction and a no-holds-barred approach to gore that will certainly please fans of the red stuff, but look beyond the ample gore and you’re left with little more than an amalgam of post-Hostel tropes masquerading as a serial killer movie, albeit arranged In such a fashion as to at least keep things mildly interesting.
Starz!/Anchor Bay releases Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer on DVD in a 1.78:1 transfer that’s appropriately grainy and grimy, with oversaturated colors and a generally filmic quality. Blacks are a bit washed out at times, and there are some blocky compression artifacts here and there, but, for the most part, the image is quite solid and visually arresting. The transfer is complimented by a well-mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track that boasts deep, aggressive bass, clear dialogue, and nicely implemented directional effects.
Extras include a short making-of featurette, as well as trailers for this and other Anchor Bay releases.
If you value gore over story you’ll probably find much to like about Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer, but if you’re looking for something more than blood-for-blood’s sake you’ll probably be as disappointed in the film as I was. Save for Krause’s strong performance and Vadik’s novel narrative approach, this is a film we’ve seen a hundred times over, and brings next to nothing new to the tired torture porn sub-genre.