Killer by Nature (2010)

Rating: C-

Dir: Douglas S. Younglove
Star: Zachary Ray Sherman, Ron Perlman, Armand Assante, Lin Shaye

Owen Whitmore (Sherman) is troubled by problems at night. He walks in his sleep, waking up with absolutely no memory of where he has gone or what he has done – but he remembers, all too well, the nightmares in which he drowns and dismembers a faceless young woman. His therapist doesn’t know quite what to do, so calls in specialist Dr. Jonas Julian (Perlman), who see in Owen a subject of interest, with regard to Julian’s theory that psychopathy is genetic, some people indeed being “born bad.” Meanwhile, in a parallel yet (very, very obviously) connected thread, serial killer Eugene “Mean Gene” Branch (Assante) is being prepped for his upcoming execution; like Julian, he was a doctor, but took his human experiments too far. Owen’s sessions with Julian take a turn for the worse, when his therapist turns up dead, her body mutilated in exactly the way he has just dreamed about. Even his mother (Shaye) is beginning to wonder about exactly who she is harbouring under her roof.

It’s mostly a good cast, with plenty of experience: the exception to both is Sherman, who possesses an unfortunate hairstyle that makes him come over as a cross between the young Leonardo DiCaprio and Edward Furlong. Hard to get past that first impression. While Perlman and Shaye are their usual, reliable genre selves, and I’d watch either in just about anything, they are largely wasted here, due to the problems with the story. Most obviously, if you can’t tell who the villain is in this piece, you clearly aren’t conscious trying, and there’s a final sequence involving Branch’s execution, which adds nothing positive, and instead has to rank among the most ludicrous of all time. It’s something of a shame, as there’s potential intrigue in the idea of a man struggling against the biological imperative of murderous genes. Little of that is present here, in what’s largely a generic and formulaic horror potboiler. I trust Perlman et al received a decent payday for their efforts.