Friday, February 6, 2009

The Alphabet Killer

The Alphabet Killer is a movie loosely based on a bizarre true case where three young girls, each with the same first and last initials, were raped, strangled and then dumped in a township whose name started with the same letter as their initials. This occurred in Rochester, New York in the early 70s, and the killer has never been caught.

Eliza Dushku (Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) stars in the film as a police lieutenant investigating the crimes. (My biggest criticism of the movie is it is a strain to believe a woman as young as Dushku could have made lieutenant) Her growing obsession with the case takes its toll on her career and personal life.

What makes The Alphabet Killer different from other serial killer movies is when the movie begins, Dushku’s character is suffering from the onset of schizophrenia. Her struggle is as much to hold on to her sanity as it is to solve the crimes. She is haunted by hallucinations of the dead girls, which lends a supernatural yet rational explained aspect to the story. I give props to the people who made the movie for not taking the easy way out and having Dushku miraculously cured of her schizophrenia. In truth, this terrible disease is considered progressive and incurable, and Dushku steadily loses her grip on reality.

Although some have criticized her performance, and in the past I thought she was sometimes flat as an actress, I thought Dushku did a fine job as the lead. It’s a difficult role, and I thought she pulled it off. There is also a good supporting cast, with Timothy Hutton, Michael Ironsides (I would love to see him play a kind and sympathetic character just once, as a change of pace), Cary Elwes, Carl Lumbly and others. There was a moment halfway through the film where I thought, “It would be a cliché if the killer turned out to be _______ _________”, and unfortunately it did.

Those who insist on having a definitive resolution to movies will probably be disappointed by the ending, but I thought it hit just the right note.

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