IM NOT HARRY JENSON.
For a new director, James Napier Robertson shows a great deal of assurance. He creates a strong, dramatically contained set-up abandoning the characters in the wild and then creating a tense psychological whodunnit among those present as the unknown killer whittles the numbers of the party down. He does a fine job in swinging suspense between the characters the climactic scenes where Gareth Stevens demands that Ian Mune search everybody present for evidence is especially well drawn out. Robertson constantly hints about nasty things about to emerge, even throws in flashes that suggest the hero is doing the killings in some kind of fugue state because of over-identification with the subject of its book. While this is preposterous as credible psychology, it works in terms of psycho-thriller pop psychology and sets up a promise that verges on something like the identity puzzle in A Scanner Darkly (2006) in which the detective hero finds that he himself is the criminal he is pursuing.
James Napier Robertson has a strong cast who all deliver more than solid work and he does a fine job in drawing the tension out through their performances. Notable is veteran New Zealand actor and film director Ian Mune who himself also made a tramp into the bush gone wrong saga with Bridge to Nowhere (1986). There is a fine performance from Cameron Rhodes as the ambiguous Ricky, who seems slightly dim but then reveals increasingly more sadistic undertows throughout, even the sinister suggestion that he knows more about the hero than he appears to at the outset. The film is particularly well served by its cinematography, which shoots the expressions on each actors face in harsh relief.
Despite a good set up and the generation of an admirable degree of tension, Im Not Harry Jenson. pans out disappointingly. Most of the interesting elements the script raises fall by the wayside. [PLOT SPOILERS]. The promising idea of a crime writer who has delved too far into the mind of his subjects and may be entering fugue states where he has become a killer himself proves to be a red herring. Other elements like Cameron Rhodes hinting that he knows a good deal more than he says are explained no further than that. Despite lending his name to the title, the titular serial killer Harry Jenson remains nothing more than an off-screen subject of the protagonists book.
Up until the point of the revelation of the psycho of the show at the end, I would have been prepared to give Im Not Harry Jenson. at least a three star rating on the basis of James Napier Robertsons generation of tension. [PLOT SPOILERS]. However, the ending is a badly contrived one that causes the films credibility to plummet. For all the films featuring a hero that is supposed to be able to identify so well with killers that he has difficulty distinguishing between his and their thought patterns, the psycho the film does eventually throw up is disappointingly run of the mill and lacking in any interesting edges. As it turns out, the films eventual thrust is a cliched one that of the horror/crime writer who is thrown into the real thing and/or given an abrupt lesson in life on what it is like to kill for real. See films like House of the Long Shadows (1983), Tenebrae (1983), Kalifornia (1993) and The Raven (2012). There is a surprising degree of similarity between Im Not Harry Jenson. and the thriller Reaper (1998), which featured a horror writer with writers block who may or may not be a serial killer. There is an effective surprise that comes at the very end but this only adds another level of contrivation to the story.
James Napier Robertson subsequently went onto direct the true-life inspirational drama The Dark Horse (2014).