Gacy

I know you are, but what am I?

It was an interesting experience to see Francis (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure) burying teenage boys in his crawlspace instead of stealing bikes. Mark Holton has evolved from playing Pee Wee Herman’s nemesis to playing a real life serial killer – John Wayne Gacy. Although I began watching cynically expecting the worst, I’ve got to admit that my expectations were too low. Holton put in an admirable performance as the man who buried 29 men and boys underneath his Chicago home.

Similar to Monster, Gacy is a fictionalized version of Gacy’s killing spree. Fictionalized means that the killer’s name can be used, but the names of his victims are changed for privacy and some of the details are exaggerated and twisted around to make a better movie. Even so, the articles I’ve read on Gacy make him out to be a sicker fuck than portrayed in the movie.

The film portrays the middle and end of Gacy’s killing career, beginning with a brief flashback of young Gacy and his abusive father. Apparently, Gacy’s father beat the shit out of him because he didn’t enjoy fishing? In any case, not much time is spent trying to explain the rationale behind Gacy’s urge to kill. Rather, the film revolves around the cluelessness of those surrounding Gacy. I was incredulous at how unsuspecting his friends and neighbors were to his extracurricular activities, not to mention his wife and mother. His wife eventually leaves him after discovering gay magazines and handcuffs in the garage – how retarded was she?

I’m interested in checking out Dahmer, co-written by one of the screenwriters of Gacy and released a year earlier. I’m much more interested in Dahmer than Gacy. Dahmer didn’t have near the output of Gacy, but what he was lacking in quantity, he made up for in style.

 

The Black Dahlia

Wretched.

I was tempted to let that one word serve as the entire review – but I could hardly do that to my adoring public, now could I? I’ve got to fill you in with every boring moment and clichéd nuance that Brian De Palma has served to us on a film noir platter.

The first problem was the cast. Blandy McBlanderson, AKA Josh Hartnett, should not be in any movies, ever. His complete lack of film presence creates a vacuum that sucks the life out of a film. I don’t have as harsh an indictment of Scarlett Johansson, but she should have gotten some pointers from Hilary Swank. Now there’s a dame that can act. She was putting on her best Bacall and really trying to make the best of bad situation. Likewise for Mia Kirshner, an excellent casting choice for the Black Dahlia. I was pleasantly surprised when Rose McGowan popped in for a short cameo.

Although it clocked in at just over two hours, it felt far longer. By the time we got out of the theater, I was convinced that it was longer than Return of the King. The whole thing dragged from beginning to end. The only entertaining scenes were the ones with Madeline’s crazy ass mother. She’s really the only interesting character in the whole film.

Was it really necessary to toss that turkey on the floor so that Josh and Scarlett could hump on the kitchen table? That seems like a waste of perfectly good poultry to me.

Speaking of turkeys, the biggest problem is the plot. I guess it’s not so much De Palma’s fault as it is James Ellroy’s fault – he wrote the damn book in the first place. Why give the two antagonists such similar names – Blanchard and Bleichert? It took me half an hour to figure out which one was which – and by then, I really didn’t care. The plot wasn’t so much full of twists and turns, as it was full of contrived scene after contrived scene. The “lesbian bar” was just ridiculous – was k.d. lang really necessary? By the end of the movie, I did not care who killed the Black Dahlia, I was just hoping he would strike again. I’m curious as to whether the book is actually as wretched as the movie – I might actually pick it up if I see it for cheap.

Regardless of the aforementioned flaws, I probably would have hated the film no matter what. I’ve had an interest in the Black Dahlia case for decades. I first read about the case in my dad’s set of Crime and Punishment encyclopedias. Then there was that one episode of Hunter that cemented my interest. By the time the internet came around, I was able to read far more about the case than was probably healthy. After coming across the crime scene photos online, I definitely lost a bit of interest (Rotten.com has a tendency to do that to a person). My interest was renewed in the last couple of years with a new spate of theories – two different people coming out of the woodwork with books stating that their fathers were the murderer and the subsequent TV specials…and now this film. Well. Wretched as it was, my expectations were likely too high in the first place. I’ll just wait for new theories to roll in and avoid the related fiction like the plague.

Party Monster

I’m a sucker for anything labeled as “BASED ON A TRUE STORY.” Especially if it’s the story of a real life killer – Monster, The Young Poisoner’s Handbook, Cannibal! The Musical, etc…except for those damn Lifetime Movies for Women bullshitty ones. You know the ones I mean – the ones with a looong hyphenated title like Love’s Deadly Triangle: The Texas Cadet Murder, Seduced by Madness: The Diane Borchardt Story or Judgment Day: The John List Story. Those things are like watching paint dry.

Party Monster is the story of Michael Alig – the New York City Club Promotor/Club Kid who killed his drug dealer. Alig is played by McCaulay Culkin – and he’s really good. Not Oscar good, but good. Seth Green was also good as Alig’s tiny mentor, James St. James. Chloë Sevigny, Indie Princess (not to be confused with the Indie Queen, Parker Posey) also stars as Alig’s Girl Toy, Gitsie. She was actually not annoying for once. Then again, she wasn’t onscreen all that much either. The world’s most famous transsexual, Amanda LePore, has a cameo as a Club Kid – fitting as she actually did hang out with the Club Kids.

The film depicts Alig’s humble beginnings as a mop boy to hooking up with James St. James and becoming the toast of the New York club scene to his eventual slide into drug addled psychosis and imprisonment for murder. Culkin portrays Alig as a child that never grew up – a Peter Pan type figure that surrounds himself with scantily clad, sexy young boys…er, I wonder how Culkin might have gotten insight to such a character?

My main disappointment was that Culkin didn’t kill Fez. Come on, if anyone deserves to be hit on the head with a hammer, injected with Drano, chopped into pieces and thrown into the East River – it’s Wilmer Valderrama! But no, Valderrama played Alig’s boy toy, DJ Keoki. Oh well, maybe next time.

The costumes are the best part of the film – fabulous eye candy. I can’t speak to whether they were faithful depictions of the actual Club Kids’ grandiose costumes, but they’re pretty similar to the types of gaudy crap I saw in the clubs back in the 90s. I actually knew a couple of wannabe Club Kids back in college – friends of a friend, etc. They were some of the most depressing, drug crazed psychos that I had ever met. They were always involved in some kind of drama and usually left a trail of glitter wherever they went. I would have no problem at all believing that one of them killed their drug dealer with a hammer.

Ashamedly, I’ve felt the urge to say things like “Skrod-La-Da” and “Skrink” since watching Party Monster. They really are catchy little phrases…but NO, I’m not gonna start talking like a Club Kid. That’s got to be more than a little distasteful at my age?

There’s a documentary on Michael Alig (also called Party Monster) by the makers of this film. I’ll have to track it down and watch it. I’m curious how close the actors in the movie are to the real people, especially the narrator, James St. James. Both the documentary and the feature film are based on his book, Disco Bloodbath. Why not make a buck off your best friend’s murder trial?

  

The Young Poisoner’s Handbook

A cross between A Clockwork Orange and The Butcher Boy.

I had been wanting to see this for a long time – there used to be a poster in the window of the Video Update I used to go to, before it burned down anyway…Just having the word ‘poisoner’ in the title was good enough for me…it just sounds sick.

I was pleased to find out that the film was indeed based on a true story, though all the books I could find about Graham Young on Amazon.com were long out of print. I guess I will have to go to a library or something.

I compare this film to A Clockwork Orange and The Butcher Boy because it also points out that institutionalization rarely does a killer good, though in this one, he is not even brainwashed as Alex and Francie were – he actually became more focused upon chemicals, though it was through horticulture with the intent to heal, not harm. Of course, it failed….

Another obvious connection to A Clockwork Orange is that it even starts off with the same theme – Purcell’s Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary. The titles are white on a background of orange/red swirling chemicals. Not exactly the same as the primary colors of A Clockwork Orange, but did you ever notice that there were twice as many orange slides as any other color???

Anyway, go rent it, I found it at Blockbuster, in the Sundance Selection Aisle, which is a total rip-off! They charge new release prices for old films that only a handful of people will rent, because they are so art house or whatever. Fuck Blockbuster.