They say you should watch out for the quiet ones. The same thinking applies to a well-respected man named John Wayne Gacy. The guy was one of America’s most notorious serial killers. The biopic, To Catch a Killer is about how this arrogant, cold-blooded murderer was uncovered.
This film was made in 1992 when Gacy and his victim’s families were still alive. As a result, some of the names and details were changed for privacy reasons. The murders took place between 1972 and 1978 but the costumes and settings in this film do not reflect this. In fact, audiences may be mistaken for thinking this killing spree took place in the early nineties, such is the look and feel of the proceedings.
This was a made-for-TV film and proves that true crime was as popular with audiences two decades ago as it is today. The video and sound don’t appear to have been remastered for the DVD release, which is disappointing. The video can be grainy at times. The special effects are also poor with only a theatrical trailer available for viewers.
Eric Till directs here and Jud Kinberg wrote the screenplay. Brian Dennehy stars and puts in a killer – okay, not literally – performance as Gacy. The role is quite a creepy one, at times like Robin Williams’s character in One Hour Photo. On the one hand Gacy is a pillar of society, a business owner and a man who volunteers at the local hospital, entertaining young kids as a clown. But the tension is high and audiences will be aware of the seedy undercurrent, especially with all the missing men.
Gacy was responsible for killing over 30 young guys. To Catch a Killer focuses on the police investigation because the trial is not shown. Michael Riley is quite flat in his performance as Joe Kozenczak, a determined detective who follows his intuition about Gacy. Kozenczak is obsessed with investigating this man and there is also a prosecutor played by Meg Foster.
Margot Kidder has a minor role as a psychic. It is her job to disclose some important points to the police about the case. Her character is a rather two-dimensional one, especially when compared to Gacy. The use of the psychic seems at odds with the slow-burning realism on offer here. Her inclusion requires some audiences to suspend their disbelief.
Gacy was a predator. He groomed his victims and raped them. When finished, he strangled them and hid the bodies. This film isn’t very raw, because often these crimes are suggested rather than depicted in any great detail. This is possibly because the film was destined for television, so things couldn’t be too gory.
To Catch a Killer has its moments but ultimately this is one grim case. This long and slow story goes into detail about the efforts of the Illinois police to catch a murderer who also moonlighted as Pogo the Clown. In short, this is a gruesome, true story where a sadist is front-and-centre of a cat and mouse game.
This review was originally published at: http://www.impulsegamer.com/to-catch-a-killer-dvd-review/