Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Alphabet Killer (2008)

The Alphabet Killer is a supernatural thriller based on the true story of the as yet unsolved Alphabet murders. The murders took place in Rochester, New York during the 1970's and got their name due to the fact that each of the victims names included a double initial and their bodies were found in towns starting with the same letter.

I strongly believe that movies based on true events, especially something like the Alphabet Murders that is still an open case today and has actively been in the news as recent as March 2nd 2009, owe a debt of decency in their portrayal of the story. I am not suggesting that fictional movies based on true events should not exist, I am referring to movies that are not hiding behind false truths. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the 1974 original, not the 2003 remake) is a good example of a well made film that despite labeling itself "Based on a true story", does not depict factual events, however it is only loosely based on the events of serial killer Ed Gein. Neither his name, the names of victims, nor any other place names or similarities exists. They simply used his story as the basis for a horror movie and that is fine.

The Alphabet Killer does the opposite, we are shown relatively accurate series of least to a point and despite key name changes it is quite obvious that the film makes no attempt to spare the identity of the real victims. Of course, their claim is that the story is fictional. We are watching the film unfold through the eyes of Detective Megan Paige (Eliza Dushku), she is obsessed with this case to the point where it causes an adult onset of schizophrenia. This leads to the films supernatural element by way of hallucinations, disorganized speech, catatonic behavior and illusions. She is haunted by the ghosts of the dead girls and cannot rest until their killer is brought to justice.

I found the film quite disjointed and without a clear direction, it almost tries too hard to be a "who dunnit" mystery throwing a few red herrings here and there, but overall it just isn't coherent. Even once the identity of the killer is known, we are no wiser about their motives, in fact little of anything is explained.

The Alphabet Killer owed a lot more to the original story, its victims, their families and the many police who to this day still live with the unanswered question of who and why, it does little to help in their grieving process and does little to provide entertainment for everyone else.

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