Directed by Paul South/William Taft
Nobody makes serial killer movies anymore. Sure, we get the occasional made for TV movie but the sleazoid epic is pretty much extinct.
Well Paul South and Bill Taft aim to change that by profiling one of the most notorious though largely unfamous American serial killers of all time. Bob Berdella: The Kansas City Butcher.
Berdella's crimes are as sadistic as Dahmer's, Gacys, etc. However, few have heard of him. He's got his own Wikipedia page so we know when they say this is based on true events....well it is.
As for the film, Berdella is clearly an echo to Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer. It's unrelentless in its depiction of Berdella. He is an odd man, with peculiar friends and his crimes were horrific. Watching this film was like viewing an Unsolved Mysteries episode though if it were made for a grindhouse audience. Sorta docu-horror, it balances between that world of documentary with pure horror chillness.
What you get is a simply a film that is wicked as hell, but raw and gritty as a Henry or a Dahmer. Berdella seems to be a combination of both of them.
Bob Berdella, Kansas City’s most notorious serial killer, was most notable for luring young men to his home throughout the 1980s. He drugged them and tortured them, repeatedly experimenting to see how much pain he could cause them and still keep them alive. And when he went too far, his victims died. He cut up their bodies and set them out with the garbage....
(via Horror Society)
What you'll notice right away about the film is the throwback scratchy look of the film. From the opening grindhouse title intro to the color schemes that saturate the film, it's made to look like a vintage Times Square shock film. I don't know if this is intentional but it really feels like a 80s VHS 3rd generation dub that I got through a dealer at a horror convention.
At about 80 or so minutes, it's all about Bob. The movie follows Bob through his hard drinking, his day job at Bob’s Bazaar Bizarre where he sold offbeat items and his obsession with all things gay. It's this daily life look that makes Bob Berdella seem ordinary.
But he definitely doesn't give off the "hey he looked like a normal guy" sorta look. Fat, balding and with a vintage Selleck mustache, Berdella looks shady and he is. When night falls, Berdella is a predator Chris Hansen would be scared shitless of.
The movie chains most of the more prolific murders into the movie with one man being hammered, another having his eyes evacuated and also being electrocuted by some starter cables. All these end with asphyxiation via plastic bag. The Gore-ipedia is raw and fucked up as advertised. Tons of blood and splatter are on display and it's not for the squeamish. What we get for a WTF moment is full frontal penis shots. And you're just unprepared to see it.
But its true to Berdella, who was a homosexual serial killer who picked up his victims in gay clubs and bars. It's this truthiness that makes Berdella seem oh so real life cruel and deparaved. As is Seth Correa's performance as Berdella. Correa plays him eccentric and odd and we can feel like he is as bizarre and fucked up as can be. Even his friends and the occasional stranger encounter the off-ness of Berdella but most can't believe that a serial killer could be in their midst.
The movie does suffer from inconsistent performances by the would be victims as well as Correa. The dialogue at times is clunky and a scene with mysterious chili hints at a Dahmer Top Chef but then goes nowhere. Exploitation films were never known for their acting but if all this was intentional, to me it knocks a spinkick off the rating.
Berdella is a time machine to the mid 80s and its filmed in a world full of VHS-ness of the time. If there was an indie horror equivalent of McNaughton's Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Berdella definitely qualifies. These days, serial killers are made to be likeable (see Dexter) and even are made into PG-13 Lifetime movies of the week. But turn over the other side of the coin, you get Berdella. His crimes were fucked up and the movie plays it out as such.
If you don't get the wiggins watching this, it hasn't done it's job.
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
Feeling like seeing an uber fucked up serial killer movie? Then Berdella is my pick and coming from the jaded viewer, that's high praise. The DVD is available now from the official site. Also check out the Facebook and Twitter pages for more info.
I like how South and Taft marketed this flick. The pictures in the screener they sent me have various grindhouse looks and serial killer sarcasm. It's like they were parodying the fandom that has arisen with serial killers of late. Very clevery.
Check out the trailer below.