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Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck

Directed by Michael Feifer

Written by Michael Feifer

Starring Corin Nemec, Andrew Divoff, Tony Todd, Debbie Rochon

Produced by Michael Feifer

Rated R

92 minutes

**

There are days when I’m convinced I’m one of the last dozen people on earth who remembers when Corin Nemec was Corky. And worse, who remembers when he was Parker Lewis.

Because watching Nemec in the latest attempts to outrun his past—and this time in horrific scar makeup—is actually wavering wildly between comical and terrifying.

And this time, Nemec is bringing us Michael Feifer’s take on Richard Speck’s rampage of killings back in the mid sixties. Just in case you’re not conversant with the details, Speck took nine student nurses in Chicago hostage and beat, raped, and killed eight of them. The last survivor, who hid under the bed, manages to give details to the police.

Now…that’s not comical. Nothing about that is comical. Though Nemec manages to bring a raw, almost hysteric, edge to his portrayal of Speck that belies a certain skill. One minute a down-home shitkicker country boy, the next a cold steeled killing machine, and then seguing into a deep but somber remorse, Nemec takes Speck through the gamut of possible emotional ranges in a serial killer to an unexpected depth.

Granted, maybe movies like “Mansquito” weren’t exactly the way to get his skill across. It’s hard to look like a Serious Actor when you’re toting an M-203 around and blasting genetically modified mosquito men. But “Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck,” for all its bluster and splatter and gore, gives Nemec a chance to actually expand for a change, and do something that almost makes you forget “Gentlemen, synchronize Swatches.”

Almost. He’s never gonna get past that as far as I’m concerned, not least of all because back when my friends and I were twelve the best possible thing we could do with our high school careers was be Parker Lewis. Indeed, he could Not Lose. So too did we hope to at least Not Lose.

My own geriatric flashbacking aside, “Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck” at least manages to generate some authenticity for a change of pace, unlike the flood of serial killer movies Lions Gate has been putting out lately courtesy of non-stop trash machine Hollywood House of Horror. “Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck” actually manages to get us caring about the character, giving juuuuuuust enough exposition to know what’s going on without bogging things down.

The ending allows the loose ends to be tied up in a fairly succinct fashion, and Nemec ramps up the chuckle factor by having Speck burst out a string of profanity unlike anything I can generate. Until about the last four minutes, in which a baffling video is described—and maybe even partially shown, I couldn’t quite tell—in which Speck, in prison, has sex, does drugs, and sports a couple of breasts from hormone treatments he smuggles in. That just takes the whole proceedings and throws it squarely into a “huh?” zone from which there is no escape except the end credit roll. Which, mercifully, comes quickly.

The special features include Spanish subtitles, English closed captions, audio commentary, audio options, deleted scenes, a stills gallery and trailers for “Murder Set Pieces,” “Curse of the Zodiac,” “Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield,” “The BTK Killer,” “Black Dahlia,” and an advertisement for Fearnet.

All in all, not bad. A decent performance from Nemec and a little bit of actual narrative goes a long way in “Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck.” If you’re looking for something harrowing and horrifying, then you could probably do a whole lot worse, unless you can’t stand a story where you already know the ending.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.


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