STUDIO: Sony Pictures
MSRP: $24.96
RUNNING TIME: 88 Minutes

The Pitch

Based on a true story!

The Humans

Robert Forster (Jackie Brown), Gregg Henry (Slither)

The Nutshell

Between the years of 1974 and 1994 the city of Wichita Kansas lived in fear as a serial Killer known as BTK (a name he chose for himself as an acronym for bind, torture, kill) preyed upon them while also playing a cruel game of cat and mouse with the investigators trying to catch him. In 1994 the killings stopped, and so did BTK’s communication with the media and law enforcement. But in 2004 he began to taunt the police again, and this time Wichita’s finest was determined to nab BTK before he could kill again.

Officer Rader had an unconventional method with those contesting tickets.

The Lowdown

The Hunt for the BTK Killer originally aired on network television on October 9th, 2005, which is pretty interesting considering the man that was arrested for murdering ten victims entered a guilty plea to all the charges only four months ahead of the release of this telepicture (June 27th, 2005 to be exact). So that would definitely put this TV movie into the realm of a “rush job” and it shows.

The Hunt for the BTK Killer has going for it is that it doesn’t stray too far away from the courtroom testimony. The real BTK killer, Dennis Rader, was a big talker. He rambled on for a long time during his interrogation and in court about how he chose his victims. He also explained in very cold detail how he killed them as well. The TV movie gets this right on, thanks to a very good performance by Gregg Henry. He looks like Rader, and he completely captures Raders detached way of explaining how he would “put down” his victims. His performance makes me wish that this movie had been given more time in preproduction, and been put on HBO, so that Henry could have really delved into the darker side of the person he was portraying.

With insurance costs through the roof, a self administered colonostomy is economically sound
and it comes with the satisfaction that you finished a job yourself!

The limits of network television are quite apparent in
The Hunt for the BTK Killer. When the film isn’t focused on the courtroom, any real sense of fear or chills are washed away by the standards and practices offices that take all the questionable material. What we are left with is not so subtle scenes showing Rader as a nice guy in public, but a complete sadist when he is by himself. It’s as if the producers and studio figured the American TV viewer wouldn’t be smart enough to know that he led a dual life if it wasn’t explained with a handful of dramatic push-ins when they wanted to make sure the viewers knew even though he smiles a lot, he really is a bad guy.

I will give credit to the filmmakers for trying to push the envelope a little bit by using a nice mixture of different angles and cuts to at least give a hint of the horror that this killer inflicted on his victims. If you can’t really visually show how the killer worked, this style, in combination with Henry’s clinical description of the crimes, at least gave me an idea of how terrifying it must have been for anyone unlucky enough to run into BTK when he was in a killing mood.

No matter how many times they rewrote the script, poor Robert still couldn’t
understand all the big words.

I wasn’t very into Robert Forster’s Detective Jason Magida. Forster is basically playing a fictional composite of many people that investigated the BTK case, and when you mix too many things together, the result can sometimes be bland. The problem with Forster is that he has no presence on the screen (not even on the small one). This could be because tight shooting schedule didn’t allow much time for the writers to get the script fully fleshed out for production. That could also be why most of the time you only hear him in voiceover, explaining things that the audience already knows (well, maybe they forgot everything they saw and heard during the commercial breaks?). What do I know though? All I can say is that the voiceover is annoying and Forster himself shows the emotional range of a piece of lumber.

So, it isn’t a great movie, but it does a serviceable job of getting the facts right. It would have been a little more interesting though if they had really fleshed out the characters more instead of just filming court documents.

The Package

Nothing, unless you needed a preview of The DaVinci Code, Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital, or Mountain Patrol.

"This could be so much better if my INXS tape wasn’t broke!"

5 out of 10