Copycat (2008)

MAY 29, 2010


I don't remember the 1995 film Copycat too much, but I have to assume it was better than this, the 2008 film Copycat (formerly known as Diary of a Serial Killer), which has a similar concept of a serial killer copying kills performed by famous killers from the past (Dahmer, Ramirez, Gein, etc) and the emotionally scarred woman trying to stop him. Except instead of the rather novel two-female approach that the 1995 film had (and two great actors to boot), here her "partner" is a boring cop. Way to elevate the concept you're ripping off.

Instead, this movie goes for originality by occasionally presenting lengthy flashbacks of the early days of each of the aforementioned killers. And we're talking full blown, detailed sequences - you could come in during one of them and think you were seeing a regular movie about that specific killer. Knowing little to nothing about those three, I don't know how closely they follow the true life cases, but I will say that they SEEM to get the jist of them (as opposed to the "way off" approach of something like Curse of the Zodiac). Ramirez goes after a couple, Dahmer preys on a younger boy, and Gein has his mother's corpse in his house (one thing is definitely not factual: they go full on Leatherface with the human skin thing - to the extent where Platinum Dunes should have been asked for permission to use their version's likeness).

The idea behind this stuff is fine - factually correct or not, it's giving SOME idea of these lesser known killers (save for maybe Dahmer, who is also the most recent). The problem is it never really ties into the main plot, and they take up a combined 45-50 minutes of the movie, time that should have been spent further developing the main character, or adding some goddamn suspense to the modern day sequences, which are tension/conflict-free until the very end. The present day scenes follow one of two patterns - we either see the killer (whose identity is not hidden) murdering someone that we don't know/care about, or we see the reporter looking around a murder site and stumbling across something that provides a lengthy flashback, often with sections where the only "witness" is the one that was killed, so how it would make its way into a flashback is beyond me (they also never provide any explanation for how the killer managed to obtain Dahmer's home movies or any of the other stuff he had).

My guess is that they couldn't secure any of the present day actors for a full shooting schedule and thus had to extend the flashbacks in order to pad the film to an acceptable running time. I mean, the Dahmer flashback even includes scenes of a kid who finds a video of one of his murders and then pukes, and then after being attacked he manages to escape, only for the cops to bring him right back, thinking he's Dahmer's boyfriend. Do we really need all of this? Whose story are you telling here? We know the kid's a goner right from the start, because the flashbacks are detailing MURDERS, not attempts at them. Plus, the kid's a goddamn moron - he points out that he is not gay, yet he willingly goes with Dahmer into his home to drink beer with him (the kid comes off as some sort of beer addict). At least if it was some sort of narcotic (crack is always a fun option!) it would be sort of believable that he was fucked up already and wasn't really using his head.

The movie also suffers from one of my biggest pet peeves: half-assed newspaper clippings. Not only did the prop folks neglect to spellcheck the damn things (one about a "wittness" is shown several times), but the "relevant headline, unrelated article" goof has rarely been so apparent. Here's one example, where the headline about the killer inexplicably leads to a story about heart problems:

I mean, how hard is it to just jot down some generic killer stuff when they know it's going to be on screen close enough for folks to be able to at least read the headline? Here: "Police found the body of Mary Smith in her apartment today, and suspect she may be the latest victim of the Ham Sandwich Killer, who has eluded police for the past three years." Done. That took me 12 seconds, and now my non-existent movie has one less thing for snarky horror movie reviewers to bitch about.

I was also disappointed with the movie's lack of balls. The whole thing is about getting INSIDE a serial killer's mind, but the killer doesn't seem to be willing to go the whole nine yards. The killer is copying Dahmer, but he's not eating the victim; he copies Gein but leaves the skin alone, etc. It's as if director Andy Hurst (who I just discovered was also responsible for the Saw ripoff Are You Scared? - does the guy ONLY direct films that are blatant copies of others?) and writer Ellis Walker were afraid to really shock anyone. Guys - your movie is not going to be playing at the AMC Burbank anytime soon, OK? You're going direct to video - EMBRACE IT. You're betraying your own concept by seemingly making sure you're only doing the bare minimum to hit an R rating.

My notes have "secure?" written down. Not sure what that means. It's funny too, sometimes when I'm writing something short down, I think "Maybe I should be more specific", which is always followed by "Nah, I'll remember, how could I forget THIS?". I guess those ginkgo biloba pills I've been taking are for shit.

But I shouldn't be surprised, the movie is the poster child for "forgettable", and that's apparently not just my opinion: the movie's been out on DVD for almost two years and its IMDb page is still pretty dry - only 3 external reviews, hardly any message board postings (most of which are just from people who thought they were watching the Sigourney Weaver film, or, hilariously, another film called Diary of a Serial Killer starring Gary Busey), and only one goof (something about Ed Gein's house not looking right). I believe it was George Berkeley who said "If someone makes a boring serial killer movie, and no one bothers to rent it, does it make a sound?"

What say you?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


  1. So, I just scored last week at a local Hollywood video going out of business sale. After getting some decent stuff for $1 to $2 I went back on the last day. I picked up 40 of them and it cost like 8 bucks. I'll be happy to give most of this stuff to you if you haven't seen them yet. Just say the word and I'll put together a list... Don't get too excited, I think you've probably seen most of them.

    Copycat was among them. I wonder if I'll ever actually watch it? I doubt I'll enjoy it as much as your review. I loved the half-assed newspaper example. That always bugs me too. I've noticed that a similar thing happens in comic books, except they usually just type random digits to fill in the space. Even that would be better than what they've done here.

    I bought some of those ginkgo biloba pills, but I can never remember to take them... (Oh God! I am so fucking funny!!!)


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