Jesse Moss - Jason Moss
William Forsythe - John Wayne Gacy
Emma Lahana - Alyssa
Andrew Airlie - Professor Harris
Cole Heppell - Alex Moss
Genre - Psychological Thriller/Serial Killers
Running Time - 103 Minutes
Based on a true story outlined in a memoir by Jason Moss called The Last Victim, the film depicts an 18-year-old Jason (Jesse Moss - no relation), who wants to do a term paper on convicted serial killer, John Wayne Gacy (William Forsythe). Knowing that Gacy preyed on young men, Jason begins working out and sending Gacy photos to seduce him. Gacy takes the bait, soon engaging in phone conversations and letters with Jason. Jason believes that he's the one in control of this relationship, hoping by gaining Gacy's trust, Gacy will confide in him about his famous crimes. However, as Jason is trapping himself within the house of lies he's made to gain Gacy's trust, he realizes that Gacy is the one perpetuating their relationship's pace, making Jason do things that make him completely uncomfortable. Jason's "research" forever changes him, both physically and mentally, as he delves deeper inside the mind of a psychopath.
- The acting. Even though DEAR MR. GACY is full of good actors, the film is really a two-man show. Jesse Moss is completely believable as Jason. His evolution from a normal young college student, who'll do anything to get a juicy story out of John Wayne Gacy, to a psychologically and emotionally damaged young man who becomes a bit mad and somewhat homicidal is convincing all the way. Moss gives it his all, hitting every emotional cue needed to make the character work. I really enjoyed watching his performance.
William Forsythe, however, is just incredible in his portrayal of infamous serial killer, John Wayne Gacy. He comes across as seductive, lonely, charming, and menacing all at once. He's just so believable in the role and I could care less if he doesn't look all that much like the real-life Gacy. He's just so haunting and spellbinding that you can't take your eyes off of Forsythe when he's onscreen. I think the only actor who played Gacy better was Brian Dennehy in that terrific TV movie, 1992's TO CATCH A KILLER. Forsythe drives the film and both he and Moss are riveting to watch.
- The story. When I hear "Based On A True Story", I tend to be skeptical because while the premise is intact, what's done with it is usually more fiction than fact. And while I'm sure some of DEAR MR. GACY was fictionalized in order to create a watchable film, I do believe it's as close to the memoir as possible. I love that the screenplay keeps the focus on Jason Moss, since he was the one who wrote the memoir to begin with, and never sensationalizes the situation - instead giving us a human perspective to the serial killer story we rarely see in cinema or on television. DEAR MR. GACY is never about the murders, even though we do see some bad things in flashbacks. It's about two men who are so different, yet alike in many ways, forming a strange bond that ruins them both. While Gacy is still portrayed as a monster, we do see a genuine [for him anyway] caring and gentle side to the man, as he feels that Jason is his only friend. And Jason's self-destruction, just so he can understand Gacy's world while trying to gain his trust for some valuable information, is both interesting and sad to watch. Gacy was a perverse man, and watching Jason fall into that world a bit is a bit creepy. It's a story of manipulation, rather than murder. I really appreciate the depth of the narrative, as DEAR MR. GACY is an eerie character study of how men, no matter where they are, being able to control others for their own benefit. It felt authentic and I wanted to know more about all the parties involved, especially since the real Jason Moss committed suicide in 2006 - years after these events. That's the sign of a good screenplay.
- The direction. Svetozar Ristovski creates a very tense and eerie film. I liked the look of the film, which looked washed out at times. The flashbacks had a darker tint than the current events of the film, which was a nice touch. The editing was great. The pacing was perfect. It was a low budget film, but the picture looked good. It's not a visually stimulating film, but it's a well made one for this type of movie. The story is so good and the acting performances are so solid, that all Ristovski had to do was let those two things tell the story. No complaints here at all.
- Story a bit uneven. This doesn't happen often, but DEAR MR. GACY does have a couple of plotholes. I do think that Jason's suffering was a bit off at times. He would hit rock bottom one night, and then the next morning act totally calm as if nothing major had happened. I'm sure this happens more frequently than believed, but I felt the change was a bit too quick. I think the story could have let it linger a bit before having Jason realize that he had to take matters into his own hands. It doesn't really hurt the film, but it almost like whiplash at times.
The other major plothole has to do with the "connections" Gacy has. Gacy was able to gain a ton of information about Jason, his family, and such. But how did he not know that Jason was a college student and doing a report on him? It wasn't like Jason was hiding it either, as he would talk to his girlfriend and his professor in public about it. It's possible that Gacy was unable to gain that bit of info. But he pretty much knew everything else and was using this info to manipulate Jason deeper into his perverted pit. I'm guessing this happened in real life, but it just feels like a movie plot device to build tension and keep the story was ending.
THE FINAL HOWL
DEAR MR. GACY is a terrific psychological drama/thriller that audiences ought to watch. While it does have small flaws, the film has a strong screenplay, powerful acting, and solid directing. I would have never bothered with this one if someone didn't request it for a review. I'm very glad I took the chance because this really was a great "serial killer" movie. If you're expecting something really exciting and gory, look elsewhere. But if you enjoy well-written character studies, DEAR MR. GACY is definitely worth checking out.
3.5 Howls Outta 4