Friday, June 27, 2014

Dear Mr. Gacy (2010)

Dear Mr. GacyI honestly can't even remember the amount of movies made about various serial killers over the years and there has many numerous about John Wayne Gacy himself as well so going into this I wasn't expecting any new or different here but boy was I wrong. Based on a true story, the film tells the tale of college student, Jason Moss who decided to contact Mr. Gacy during his final year alive and try to find out things about no one else including the F.B.I. could get plus his was the subject John was using as his final term paper for school so he does have a motive. Early on I have to say I found Jason's fascination with Gacy a bit creepy and never having the read the book I was interested in finding out what was inside the head of the young man as well. The first letter he writes to John is one that paints a picture of a tough home life, of someone looking to reach out as a friend. After seeing an interview on Television where John states he is bi-sexual Jason takes the next step by posing and taking seductive pictures to send along in the next letter to John. Based on the book "The Last Victim" written by Jason Moss it paints a picture of someone looking to get into the head of Mr. Gacy but as the relationship moves along you quickly find out that John is a master and Jason is really no match. Jason slowly begins to journey now a dark path of destruction that effects his relationship with both his family and his girlfriend as John gets deeper and deeper in his subconscious. To go on and on about the story here would only ruin the experience for those waiting to see the film but I can say this is a dark, disturbing and and almost hypnotic look into the mind of a crazed killer, like Mr. Gacy himself the film gets in your head and stays with you long after it is over. William Forsythe gives one of if not his best performances as Gacy, he must of done a lot of research to be able to play him with such realism. Also Jesse Moss did a fantastic job playing Jason, the young man that gets more than he bargained for when taking on such a twisted mind. As the film was coming to an end I thought to myself that those 7 months with Gacy had to take its toll on Jason and had to effected the rest of his life and sure enough in the notes during the credits you find out just how much a toll it did take.

"Dear Mr. Gacy" is one of the best serial killer films I have seen in a very long time, it has fantastic production values, an amazing cast and a gritty,dark and realistic feel that sends chills down your spine. If you like the genre this is a must own film that really delivers on telling a story that will haunt you for days.


A young psychology student begins corresponding with John Wayne Gacy, the famed serial killer, posing as a potential victim in order to write a groundbreaking thesis paper on the case. After exchanging letters and speaking on the phone, Jason thinks he has the upper hand in the situation, but Gacy quickly proves that he is more cunning than he appears as he infiltrates every aspect of Jason's life and infects his mind. Intense, nauseating, terrifying. DEAR MR. GACY details the true-life experiences shared between Jason Moss and his subject of study, John Wayne Gacy, as adapted from his memoirs The Last Victim. The film is a refreshing new approach to the tired serial killer theme, and one that is made that much more frightening in the fact that it was Moss' reality for seven months. William Forsythe is both captivating and repulsive at the same time as the incarcerated "Killer Clown." His powers of persuasion and seemingly innocent charm lure the audience in just as the real Gacy had done with his victims. The one fatal flaw that makes the story so difficult to believe is that the resourceful Gacy had the ability to track down so many details about Moss' life, and yet he was unable to figure out that Jason was a college student that was playing him from the start. With the suspension of disbelief held high, DEAR MR. GACY proves to be an intimate and unsettling examination into the inner workings of one of America's most notorious murders.

-Carl Manes

I Like Horror Movies

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Wow ... I was blown away. I remember watching the news coverage shown in this film as it actually happened when Gacy was arrested and the gruesome discoveries that followed. The nation was appalled, terrified and morbidly fascinated by the undeniable proof that there is a dark side to some seemingly everyday people that is successfully hidden away by their ability to fit in with society.

I've also seen several crime documentaries about Jason Moss' experience studying Gacy. It's disturbing and unsettling to know that there are people who seem to have mastered the ability to manipulate and terrorize someone to the point of controlling them psychologically. Getting inside the mind of someone like that would be a life-changing and horrible thing to deal with. I hate to imagine what it's like as a detective, profiler, psychologist or worst of all a victim to realize that you are dealing with a person that is consumed by violence, narcissism and a lust for total control with no regard for human life including yours.

William Forsythe was every bit as formidable and convincing as Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs ... two characters that are mesmerizing and terrifying because of the destructive use of their intelligence and the ability to gain people's trust in order to dominate them. But in this film I find it to be especially disturbing because from what I've seen and read it's (for the most part) what I consider to be an accurate portrayal of an actual, horrible event in history.

Be sure to read "the rest of the story" right before the credits. For me it really drove home the point that the impact a sick mind can achieve if they gain control is a powerful thing that can result in a multitude of damaging, violent and deadly consequences way beyond what is obvious.

Read Best Reviews of Dear Mr. Gacy (2010) Here

True stories make for interesting movies. Some tend to go overboard on the melodrama, usually ending up on Lifetime network. Others are depicted as documentaries. And then there is the real life story that is turned into drama, sometimes bad and others good. DEAR MR. GACY lands in between.

The story revolves around Jason Moss (Jesse Moss), a young law student not performing up to his potential in college who is searching for a centerpiece for his thesis. He finds it while watching the news as he becomes fascinated with serial killer John Wayne Gacy (William Forsythe). Gacy is soon to be executed, coming down to his last attempt at a stay of execution and Jason's chance to speak to him is slipping by fast.

Jason realizes that he has to find an in, a way to get Gacy's attention, realizing that chances are he receives tons of letters on a daily basis. To do so, he attempts to get into the psyche of Gacy, playing off of the information that Gacy tended to pick up on young boys. He sends Gacy a letter that is in ways flirtatious. To seal the deal he ends up sending Gacy photos of himself shirtless and describing how he's considering hustling himself on the streets.

Its all done in an attempt to gain Gacy's trust so that he'll open up to him, speak to him and perhaps give him the chance to discover why Gacy did the things he did. But as their correspondence continues, Jason finds himself drawn into the dark world of Gacy's mind, falling prey to the things Gacy encourages him to do, including a trip to the world of street hustlers where he is drugged and almost raped.

Jason is perhaps Gacy's last victim. His life changes and those around him see it happening though they don't know why. He spends time bodybuilding, argues with his parents and brother and goes so far as to dump his girlfriend. The letters lead to phone calls that Gacy places to Jason which he accepts. The lies he tells to paint the portrait of himself that he knows Gacy expects build one on top of the other until he finally gets the chance to meet Gacy in prison. It is here that Jason is witness to the true monster that was John Wayne Gacy.

The movie is terribly depressing, but not so much in a bad way. The slow decent into a form of madness that overtakes Jason is well played by Moss as we see the changes develop over time. Forsythe, a totally underappreciated actor who has starred in everything from OUT FOR JUSTICE, THE ROCK and THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU'RE DEAD, does a truly menacing portrayal of Gacy, showing the manipulative side of him that convinces Jason to do the things he does while at the same time show the animalistic frenzy that fills Gacy when he confronts the obsessive fan alone in a prison cell.

Gacy was an unusual killer. Well respected in the community, known for his dressing as a clown for children's parties and celebrated for his paintings of clowns while in prison, he was not what most people expected when thinking of a serial killer. But the acts he committed, not just to the boys he killed but to Jason Moss as well, were some of the most brutal imagined. This movie is on the low budget scale but it tells the story well and holds your interest. While there are moments you want to look away, there are others that keep you watching from beginning to end. Here's hoping that the number of potential serial killers like Gacy dwindle rather than grow.

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Direct-to-DVD movies about serial killers are so common that it's almost revolutionary when one is given the slightest bit of positive notice. I caught the trailer for Dear Mr. Gacy in a store, was slightly intrigued, and became very interested when I found mostly positive reviews. The film is based on a book I'd never heard of by Jason Moss, who developed a correspondence with serial killer John Wayne Gacy in the months leading up to his execution. Gacy died in 1994, Moss' book was published in 1999, and Moss took his own life in 2006. The book was called The Last Victim and with the knowledge of his suicide and lack of explanation for it, a whole new dimension is added to the film.

I don't know how closely this film follows the book, so the following review is based solely on the film's own merit.

In the film, Jason Moss (coincidentally played by an actor named Jesse Moss) decides to write his college thesis on serial killers. Posing as a troubled admirer, he sends a letter to convicted serial killer John Wayne Gacy (William Forsythe). To his surprise, Gacy responds to it. Doing whatever he can to gain Gacy's trust and get access to the darkest parts of his mind, Moss develops a frighteningly close bond with Gacy that begins taking a toll on his real life.

It's troubling that Dear Mr. Gacy debuted on Canadian television and was followed with a direct-to-DVD release. Films released this way are rarely of high-quality and many people see a direct-to-DVD release as a badge of mediocrity. This is not the case with Dear Mr. Gacy. What we have here is a film that is not a horror film, but gets under your skin more effectively than any theatrically-released horror film that I can recall being released in 2010. It's also a low-budget film that never looks or feels cheap with a convincing lead performance by newcomer Jesse Moss, and one of the best portrayals of a real-life serial killer I've ever witnessed by William Forsythe.

Glancing at Forsythe's filmography, I've seen several of his films but he's only stood out in Rob Zombie's Halloween and The Devil's Rejects. I am not exaggerating when I say that Forsythe could have earned an Oscar nomination if The Last Victim had a higher budget, an actual theatrical release, and maybe some well-known people behind the camera. It's one of the most convincing performances I've seen this year. The first time we see Forsythe as Gacy is in a still photograph based on Gacy's mugshot. There's not much of a resemblance, but I accepted that he would be Gacy for the duration of the film. When Forsythe is finally seen on-screen portraying Gacy, it's a revelatory moment. He's gained weight for the role and the hairstyle is right, but once he begins speaking and the film begins progressively revealing the full extent of Gacy's character it becomes apparent how much he captured the essence of Gacy. Forsythe plays Gacy as a normal, intelligent, and friendly human being revealing Gacy as the sociopath he was in perfect synchronicity with Gacy revealing himself to Jason. Where some well-known, well-respected actors would have gone over-the-top or showy with their performance resulting in a typical one-dimensional serial killer, Forsythe slowly shows Gacy's normality wearing thin with an eerie, collected realism that's both fascinating and disturbing. A real-life serial killer is a psychologically complex character that's very difficult for any actor to tackle, especially when it's a well-written, real-life serial killer. Forsythe's performance is not this revelation because he's in a direct-to-DVD release or because he's not an actor known for embodying complicated characters...It's because it's a completely convincing performance. As far as direct-to-DVD releases about serial killers go, the only other performance to come close to the realism of Forsythe is Steve Railsback's portrayal of Ed Gein in the film of the same name.

Obviously, Forsythe blew my mind in this film. If only the film was as perfect as his performance is. All of the performances are just fine and the film maintains a dreary, grayish atmosphere that lends to the effect of Jason's correspondence with Gacy on his life. Obviously, the filmmakers didn't have much money to work with but the film never feels cheap. Except for a few "direct-to-DVD vibes," I would have thought this was just an independent theatrical release that flew under the radar. There have been a dizzying amount of direct-to-DVD films about serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer, Ed Gein, Ted Bundy, Richard Speck, and even John Wayne Gacy over the years and it's rather tragic that this film will be grouped together with that dreck.

Dear Mr. Gacy is not perfect due mostly to an uneven script that occasionally loses focus and stretches our suspension of disbelief a bit too far. As stated earlier, I have not read Jason's book but I found some scenes (the face-to-face meeting, Jason's assault on a high school student, and Gacy's ability to find anything from his cell...except that Jason is a college student) just a bit too unbelievable in an otherwise very realistically told movie. If this was a part of Jason's book, the filmmakers should have handled it better for those who have not read the book and would immediately think 'that wouldn't happen.' Imperfections aside and despite falling into the "true crime" genre, Dear Mr. Gacy is more disturbing and effective than most horror films. It's also a terrific character study of the psychological workings of a serial killer and how Gacy was able to manipulate Jason while Jason was simultaneously manipulating him. The film feels genuinely like a tragedy when we realize that Jason, in his own way, may have been Gacy's last victim.

I highly recommend Dear Mr. Gacy for those looking for a good film about a real-life serial killer. There's very few of them out there and Dear Mr. Gacy is a real delight. As a direct-to-DVD release, it's great. It's a true study of a psychopath, that doesn't just exploit it's subject to tell a cheap horror story. In fact, there is no gore and only brief scenes of violence shown in flashbacks. It's lack of a theatrical release is a tragedy, as Dear Mr. Gacy ranks up there with true-life serial killer films like The Boston Strangler and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Forsythe's performance is one of a kind in the way it gets under the skin of a real serial killer and it's unfortunate that this performance won't garner him much critical notice.

Dear Mr. Gacy succeeds at what dozens of cheap films released each year fail at doing. It's an effective, haunting, rare, and introspective look at a serial killer without the blood and gore...If Dear Mr. Gacy isn't quite one of the best films of the year, it's possibly the best horror film of 2010. What other direct-to-DVD film could receive such praise?


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