Serial killer as artist—a dubious conceit, to be sure, but H.S. Miller’s moody, cerebral thriller breathes a bit of life into some moldy abstractions, thanks to Willem Dafoe’s expertly lifeless turn as NYPD detective Stan Aubray. The antithesis of the wisecracking noir hero, soft-spoken Stan remains haunted by the crimes of a sociopathic killer who had terrorized the city, crafting his murder scenes as gruesome tableaux, before apparently being killed by Stan. Five years later, the detective is called in to investigate what at first seems to be a series of copycat crimes.
No recent American movie has been so baldly concerned with the question of interpretation (the title is derived from anamorphosis, a visual technique that yields an image viewable only from a specific vantage point or with the use of a mirror). This leads to an annoying solipsism—compelling as it often is, Anamorph feels positively cloddish next to David Fincher’s Seven or Zodiac, with which it shares a fondness for shadowy rooms and dimly lit obsessions. It turns out that Stan, already marked as an art critic by virtue of his efforts to scour the artist-killer’s works for clues to his identity, has also become the inspiration for said works, and perhaps by the end, even a sort of unconscious coconspirator. Or at least that’s one way of looking at it.