Wednesday, 23 March 2011
REVIEW: THE LAST VICTIM (R2 DVD)
Film: The Last Victim ****
Release Date: Out Now
Director: Svetozar Ristovski
Starring: William Forsythe, Jesse Moss, Patrick Gilmore, Emma Lahana
Genre: Horror/True Crime
Reviewer: Adam Wing
Also known as Dear Mr. Gacy, Svetozar Ristovski’s (Mirage) worthwhile drama chronicles the life of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, Jr. Also known as the Killer Clown, he committed the rape and murder of 33 teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978. Twenty-six of Gacy's victims were buried in his home; three on his property and four were discarded in a nearby river. Gacy became known as the "Killer Clown" due to his services at fundraising events, parades and children's parties where he would dress as "Pogo the Clown," a character he created himself.
Jason Michael Moss was an American writer on serial killers. While studying at UNLV for his honours thesis, he established relationships with John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez, Henry Lee Lucas, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Charles Manson. Moss later said that, of all the serial killers he corresponded with, he formed the strongest relationship with John Wayne Gacy. T
his film tells the story of their first meeting, when Moss was just 18 years of age, through to their very last just before his execution. Moss wrote to Gacy on a regular basis, even convincing his younger brother to correspond as well, these letters led to regular morning phone calls, during which Gacy maintained his innocence. In his book The Last Victim, Moss tells the story of his correspondence and Svetozar Ristovski revisits these events here, in this mentally disturbing tale of power, control and corruption.
William Forsythe takes on the role of John Wayne Gacy and nails the opportunity with subtlety and precision. It’s very difficult to make a serial killer approachable, but Forsythe’s performance smacks of the ‘guy next door’ routine, with naturally sinister undertones of course. Both a likeable presence in the films opening, and a raging monster by the films end, Forsythe has done crazy before, but Gacy is by far his most challenging role to date.
Jesse Moss plays the part of Jason Moss (no relation) and his character is no less complicated. A model student in the films opening, Moss becomes corrupted by the power of Gacy. His world, and the world of those around him, begins to fall apart, leading to serious shifts in nature and a disturbingly sinister turn of events. Moss commits himself to the task wholeheartedly and almost strikes the right balance, though a hasty script and little room for development occasionally hamper his commendable performance.
Ristovski handles proceedings well enough but I came away suspecting there was more meat to pick at. It’s an engaging tale, a morally disturbing insight into the influence of a killer on the mind of the impressionable, and the dark path it leads them down makes for intoxicating viewing. The running time is relatively short and the speed at which Moss loses his way seems unlikely.
The darker side of his nature falls into place too quickly - it’s not that we don’t get to see the fruits of his confused nature - but when events do take a turn down Disturbia Avenue, they don’t quite convince in the manner they should. Moss shouldn’t be held fully accountable; it’s the director’s duty to prevent him from coming on like a stroppy Anakin Skywalker type, and it's a situation Ristovski doesn’t always get a handle of.
Moss claimed to have become Gacy's "last victim" after a face-to-face meeting in prison, describing how Gacy’s presence almost consumed him, a series of events encapsulated in this motion picture. For me, Ristovski’s picture leaves that open to debate - Gacy’s reaction when he realises he’s being played suggests that he was no less a victim of his own twisted soul. Moss’ ethics have since been questioned, as have many of the claims he made in his book. He committed suicide in his Henderson, Nevada home on the morning of June 6, 2006. At the time of his death, he was a practicing criminal defence attorney.
The Last Victim escapes its low budget origins and makes for engrossing viewing due largely to a sublime performance from William Forsythe. Ristovski doesn’t always convince in recapturing Moss’ fall from grace, but the spellbinding subject matter makes up for the filmmakers occasional shortcomings. The Last Victim is a surprisingly disturbing movie and certainly worth a look.