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31.12.08

Gacy (2003)



Director: Clive Saunders
Starring: Mark Holton, Adam Baldwin, Charlie Weber
Rated R Running time: 88 minutes
Released by Lionsgate Home Entertainment

If you can get past the uneven acting, the TV-movie look, and the ridiculous floppy fake mustaches, Gacy is a decent serial killer biopic. It also answers the question that has probably been burning in your mind: whatever happened to Francis Buxton?

Mark Holton, best known as the villainous neighbor from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, stars here as the bloated deviant John Wayne Gacy, a notorious clown/rapist/murderer who sexually tortured and murdered 33 teenage boys before he was arrested in 1978. The film focuses on the final weeks of Gacy's life as a free man, while he was still busy schmoozing with his neighbors and working hard to cast himself as a sort of "super citizen". If nothing else, the film causes you to wonder how on Earth did an obese, middle-aged man who surrounded himself with good-looking teenage boys and was known to frequently dress up as a clown NOT raise some major suspicions? While his neighbors and associates seemed to be snowed by Gacy's act, the teenagers that he employed were not. In a handful of scenes it is shown to be generally accepted by the young men that Gacy was an unstable, closeted homosexual who was more than a little creepy. This fact could be overlooked, since Gacy was generous with cash and drugs, and often came off as more of a buffoon than a violent deviant. Gacy's true nature begins to reveal itself when he bashes one of his kept boys in the head with a claw hammer. That was a relatively minor incident compared to the other crimes the killer was guilty of, as we see later in the film. The film chooses not to linger on the gory details, which is probably a good thing.



Apart from a very brief scene at the beginning showing us a young Gacy camping with his drunk, abusive father (played by the very under appreciated Adam Baldwin) there is little insight offered into Gacy's murderous nature. It is a straight character study, focusing on the world through Gacy's eyes while he was in the thick of his murder spree. The best film about the killer clown was the 1992 Canadian television movie To Catch a Killer starring Brian Dennehy, and it is hard not to try to compare the two films. To Catch a Killer was a very serious police procedural/docudrama, while Gacy is considerably lighter. Comparing the performances of each film's lead is not as easy because they are so different. Dennehy was brooding, cold, calculating, with the potential for explosive violence lurking just beneath his genial demeanor; Holton's Gacy is more of a pathetic creature, a teller of tremendous lies, the butt of constant jokes, unattractive and seemingly incapable of controlling his violent impulses. I will give Dennehy the edge here because he is in the better movie, but Holton does a fine job with the material.

It's not perfect; this was obviously not filmed in Illinois, the "seventies" look isn't very convincing, and the film plays fast and loose with the facts of the case. Still, director Clive Saunders took a very low budget and a story much bigger than a small film like Gacy could handle and made it into a legitimately entertaining portrait of one of America's most infamous serial killers.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with this depiction of the Gacy. There is a good book on his childhood.

    http://www.johnnyandme.net/

    ReplyDelete