Tony : London Serial Killer (2009)

Tony: London Serial Killer is dark, disturbing and utterly compelling. It is brilliantly acted by Peter Ferdinando and is gloomily delivered with disturbing subtlety by writer / director Gerard Johnson. Truly excellent filmmaking.

Tony is a socially retarded, sad little man. He has an awkward gait, a horrendous moustache and he’s had twenty years of jobseekers allowance with no hope of being employed. He’s also a serial killer.

Living in the dilapidated mess that is Dalston in East London, Tony is surrounded by drug dealers, smackheads, prostitutes, thugs and lowlifes, and survives as a lonely man adrift in a sea of the unpleasant. His days are spent watching action films on VHS or dropping body parts into canals and his evenings are spent watching action films on VHS or attending the gay night at The Joiners Arms.

When Tony is faced with people that upset him, instead of astutely ignoring them, he kills them. Not with a burning rage, but in a quiet, perfunctory way. This murdering goes mostly unnoticed, as his victims are many of the unwanted, their disappearances from the streets unnoticed. This all changes, however, when a local boy goes missing and the aggressive father blames Tony, believing him to be a “noncey-faced c*nt” who’s kidnapped his kid for sex. As the father becomes more violent and the police get involved, Tony realizes his serial killing days might be numbered…

Everything about Tony: London Serial Killer is interesting, compelling and well constructed. The dialogue is excellent, delivered so naturalistically by the supporting characters it feels like you’re watching an incredibly demented documentary. The direction plays up to this too, giving the moments of violence a passively voyeuristic feel. It is funny in places, tragic in others, and genuinely horrible in some.

There are some elements of true horror – the foot in the sink, suffocation by shopping bag, hammer-time – but it’s the moments of quiet fury that truly scare and disturb. Peter Ferdinando depicts a man sedate on the outside but consumed by hatred within. The “I’m not a criminal, I’m a soldier” speech in front of his mirror is brilliant and utterly disturbing. Ferdinando is amazing throughout.

Tony will remind you of someone you know – a work colleague, an old school friend – and someone you’ve always been convinced will snap one day and murder people. In Tony: London Serial Killer, Johnson teaches you that this someone might have snapped already… and it’s effortlessly disturbing.

Although he’s an utterly depraved, morally barren freak of a man, you almost sympathize with Tony. When an aggressive CID officer asks him what he was doing when the local boy went missing, he replies calmly “I was watching Gary Busey in Hider in the House. It’s a good film. Have you seen it?” – it’s almost a cute, tragic response, and you have to remind yourself he’s a murdering psychopath.

Occasionally a scene can drag out a little too long, especially when Tony is alone and dealing with a corpse, but perhaps it is this every-day Ken Loachian feel that adds to the level of disquiet – he cuts up bodies like he’s doing the washing up. Some may find the pacing slow, the lack of real narrative arc irritating, but most will be compelled to watch it to the end – and it is genuinely a little gutting when the credits roll.

On the DVD, the accompanying short films Mug and Tony shows how Gerard Johnson recycled a lot of the same actors, scenes and cinematography from his previous work, portraying that practice does indeed make perfect. These are both decent shorts, but not a patch on the stunning main feature.

Tony: London Serial Killer is excellent – everything about it compels. It is not for everyone, but those who buy into it will be greatly rewarded. Disturbing, dirty, gritty, nasty and darkly funny in places, this is a truly brilliant British horror film.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

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