Considering that its video packaging is clearly intended to capitalize on the critical and commercial success of both THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, CONFESSIONS OF A SERIAL KILLER turns out to be better than expected, a psycho chiller that becomes more effective as it goes along. Like HENRY, it's based on the true-life...read more
Considering that its video packaging is clearly intended to capitalize on the critical and commercial success of both THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, CONFESSIONS OF A SERIAL KILLER turns out to be better than expected, a psycho chiller that becomes more
effective as it goes along. Like HENRY, it's based on the true-life exploits of Henry Lee Lucas, who claimed to have killed hundreds of women in the course of his exploits.
Daniel Ray Hawkins (Robert A. Burns, who was also the film's production designer) has been captured and narrates his vicious deeds to Sheriff Will Gaines (Berkley Garrett). Hawkins, who grew up with a mother who had sex with numerous strange men as he and his little sister watched, killed his
first victim at fifteen, and has evaded capture by sticking to the Texas highways. Sometimes his victims get away, including a hitchhiker whose escape we witness, but more often they would become one in his long string of victims. After a while, he hooks up with a brute named Moon Lawton (Dennis
Hill), who at one point helps him rape and murder a young woman named Karen Grimes (Eleese Lester). Gaines and his men at first believe that Hawkins is simply claiming responsibility for this crime based on what he's read in the papers (an echo of the real Lucas case), but Hawkins leads them to
her remains to prove his culpability. He also informs them of several boxes of Polaroids of his victims stashed in a bus station locker, further proof of his and Moon's murderous deeds.
The second half of the film is an extended flashback that begins when Moon's sister Molly (Sidney Brammer) joins the duo after fleeing her job in a "massage parlor." Hawkins is at first doubtful, but soon Molly is helping them lure unwary victims. One day, Hawkins and Molly attempt to procure a
new car by posing as hitchhikers, and think they've found a victim when a middle-aged doctor, Earl Krivics (Ollie Handley), pulls over to change a flat tire. Prevented from killing Dr. Krivics by the presence of a nearby police car lying in wait for speeding vehicles, Hawkins and Molly help him
with the tire, and are talked into accompanying him back to his house, where he also runs an appliance repair service and gives them and Moon jobs.
Dr. Krivics's assistant, Doris (Demp Toney), and his college-age daughter, Monica (Dee Dee Norton), are suspicious of the trio, who at first keep their continuing murders clandestine. Soon, however, Doris discovers evidence of the bloodshed in their living quarters; she is discovered and stabbed
to death by Molly. Getting tired of their situation, Moon abandons Hawkins and Molly; he is soon picked up in Louisiana, and a Texas cop arrives to question Molly; she shoots him dead. At the same time, Hawkins tries to drag Monica off to defile her, but Molly protests and slashes him on the arm;
in return, Hawkins murders her. After a lengthy chase, he also captures and kills Monica, and it is this last murder that ultimately leads to his capture.
Although bearing a 1987 copyright, CONFESSIONS OF A SERIAL KILLER appears to have been made even earlier than HENRY, and one can't help but make the comparison by which the former suffers. HENRY's director John McNaughton managed to achieve the difficult balancing act of telling the story through
the title character's eyes and making him an intriguing character without encouraging identification with or sympathy for him. On the other hand, CONFESSIONS OF A SERIAL KILLER's writer-director Mark Blair doesn't have the same skill, and often literally shoots scenes from his villain's
point-of-view, making some of the murder scenes and their buildup sleazy instead of scary. And by starting his movie with Hawkins in jail, Blair loses the unpredictability that made HENRY so good, in addition to negating the possibility of an equally chilling ending. CONFESSIONS OF A SERIAL KILLER
doesn't so much conclude as fade out. There's also some second-hand psychology involved here that doesn't work, and was more effectively suggested in McNaughton's film.
Nonetheless, there's more texture to this movie than most regional slasher flicks, with a backroads verismilitude that effectively abets the subject matter. Burns has been a production designer on a slew of low-budget chillers (including THE HOWLING, RE-ANIMATOR and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE),
and his work behind the scenes is at least as good as his performance as Hawkins, which convincingly suggests the banal nature of this killer even though it lacks added dimension. The other actors do good, naturalistic work, however, and once the film grounds itself in one continuous story instead
of a series of flashbacks, it has the chance to build some solid tension.
CONFESSIONS OF A SERIAL KILLER is not as gratuitously bloody as it might have been, particularly given that its end credits include one for Kim Fusch as "Body Parts," and it creates some of its best chills through suggestion. But it is still decidedly adult material that might well have had the
same ratings problems as HENRY had it been distributed theatrically. (Violence, substance abuse, profanity, nudity, sexual situations, adult situations.)
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