DECEMBER 4, 2010
To give screenwriter Kellie Madison credit, she seemingly doesn’t make up or even slightly embellish any of the facts in Dear Mr. Gacy, which is based on the memoir “The Last Victim”, written by Jason Moss. If she did, Moss’ character might have snapped and killed someone, or Gacy would have gotten out of prison and killed some folks, or any of the usual things one does when trying to make a more exciting movie based on a true story.
Which is just my way of saying not much happens in the film. Despite an early flashback to Gacy (William Forsythe, once again proving he deserves more than minor roles in Rob Zombie movies) killing someone, this isn’t a recap of the events that got him into prison in the first place. The film focuses more on Moss, who is writing a paper on Gacy and tricks him into thinking he’s a “fan” who wants to get into hustling, in order to trick him into opening up and maybe coming clean on some of his crimes.
See, unlike a Ramirez or Dahmer, who never backed down from the obvious, Gacy quite incredulously claimed he was innocent for most of his crimes, claiming he was framed for most of them. But um... he isn’t (the fact that he confessed initially and then tried the “I was framed” angle along with several others after it became clear he’d be convicted and executed didn’t help much), so while there’s merit to Moss’ attempt to get him to confess (again) in the days leading up to his execution, it sort of deflates the occasional attempts at sympathy for the guy. If there was even a shred of possibility he was indeed innocent of the crimes he was being executed for, I could maybe feel bad for him when he gets word that his date has been set, or when he discovers that Jason has been lying to him and using him. But, you know, no.
Luckily, this movie isn’t really trying to get you to consider whether or not Gacy was innocent after all. So it’s not exactly a thriller, and without the usual (often tasteless) depictions of Gacy’s crimes, why am I watching it for Horror Movie A Day? Well, besides the fact that it follows a few rules (coverage on horror sites, being about a serial killer), damned if it’s not one of the most uncomfortable and creepy movies I’ve seen in a long time. No one holds back when Gacy and Jason talk about things Jason could do in order to have a more “satisfying” sex life, such as when Gacy tries to explain (in graphic detail) how Jason could rape his little brother. I was going “ew” every 5 minutes or so, at least until the point where Jason more or less quits the act.
And since I knew nothing about this guy (I honestly didn’t realize this was a true story until the end), I was pretty terrified at the climax, when Moss decides to visit Gacy in prison a couple of days before his execution. Needless to say, it’s not an entirely civil meeting. It’s an interesting workaround to a common problem in serial killer movies – we already know the highlights. Dear Mr. Gacy takes on a chapter of his life that’s rather unknown (it’s not even mentioned in his lengthy Wikipedia page, other than a passing comment about it being one of the movies to be made based on him).
One of my notes is pretty worthless – it looks like “worst pasta ever” but no one ate pasta. Maybe posters? Moss’ room was decorated with some rather odd pinups (the solar system?) but I didn’t really care. Oh well.
The movie could definitely use some tightening; 102 minutes is pretty long for a film in which nothing happens, especially when they are sticking to the facts – we know Gacy won’t escape and come to the kid’s house or something, so after a while I just wanted them to get to the main event – Moss visiting Gacy. There are a few too many scenes of Moss arguing with his girlfriend too – at one point is this girl just going to walk away? Also, the actor playing Moss (surnamed Moss in real life, with no relation) isn’t terrible, but he didn’t really have the range needed to convey the difference between his character at the beginning of the movie to the one near the end, when Gacy has gotten “too deep” into his head and he’s contemplating killing hookers (he’s great as the crazed “hero” in Tucker and Dale vs Evil though).
Some more on the real Moss would have been welcome on the bonus features, but instead we just get a 22 minute piece about some of the folks Gacy knew, including a cop who busted him. Forsythe is often with the folks as they talk, though he doesn’t really offer much insight, so it’s not exactly a behind the scenes piece about him researching his role either. The tales are interesting (one of the subjects is a childhood friend of Gacy’s) but since the movie is about Moss, having the sole extra be devoted to Gacy is a little weird. Audio/video is average; this is not a title one “has” to see on Blu-ray.
If you liked movies like Dead Man Walking or Murder In The First, this one will be up your alley. If you want a traditional serial killer biopic, stick with the TV movie starring Brian Dennehy as Gacy (I forget the exact name). Mainly because it has Brian Dennehy instead of the guy from Leprechaun or a ghost.
What say you?