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The Alphabet Killer
Directed by Directed by Rob Schmidt
Written by Written by Tom Malloy
Starring Starring Eliza Dushku, Cary Elwes, Michael Ironside, Timothy Hutton
Produced by Produced by Tom Malloy, Aimee Schoof, Isen Robbins, Ross Ferlecki
Let me preface this week’s remarks by saying that I never thought Rob Schmidt could do a creepy atmospheric thriller. And this week, in a rare twist, I’m actually glad to be disappointed.
My disappointment this week comes in the form of The Alphabet Killer, yet another winner from the good folks at Anchor Bay. It features a detective named Megan in pursuit of the based-on-a-true-story version of the actually rather recent Alphabet Killer, an actual serial killer who has not yet been found. How recent, you ask? Simple—the ending will detail an element of the case that occured in 2006.
Anyway, his modus operandi involves finding girls with matching initials—for instance, Sara Schmidt, who doesn’t actually appear in the movie but you get the idea—and taking them somewhere that has the same initial—for instance, Smithville—to kill them.
Basically, if you’re under the age of twelve, your name is Barbie Brandt, and you live about five minutes away from Birchtown, then you’re probably going to want to discover the simple virtues of hiding under your bed. With a shotgun. Like now.
See, after the sludgy hackneyed mess of a potboiler that was Wrong Turn, and Schmidt’s sad foray into the Masters of Horror series, I was pretty convinced that Schmidt was little more than a hack. And when I saw that Eliza Dushku was going to appear in this, the cynic in me burst forth with a chorus of “Reunited for tha holidaysh, Gawd blessh ush every waaaaaan!” just like in South Park’s “Christmastime In Hell” song. That and, worse yet, you can tell from the box art and the title menu screen there will be lots of dead chicks in freaky makeup walking around, so you knew that Dushku was going to be riffing on Tru Calling like no freaking tomorrow. Doubly worse is that she’s listed as a producer.
Okay, yes…The Alphabet Killer had all the makings of a bomb so big it’d make the Manhattan Project look like maladjusted youth playing with firecrackers, but amazingly enough, it did not go off. No, quite the contrary. What instead came about was a surprisingly entertaining crime drama with just the teensiest pinch of horror to keep things on edge. In fact, you can’t really call The Alphabet Killer horror—it’s definitely a thriller, and much more crime drama than anything else—but calling it a horror movie for the appearance of a couple ghosts is a serious misapplication of terms.
Watching Schmidt strike off in this relatively new (for him) direction (no pun intended) is a surprisingly fresh approach that leaves me with a pleased sort of surprise, like unwrapping presents on Christmas morning did.
I’m truly rather impressed, and chances are, if you’ve got any kind of love for the crime drama, you will too.
The ending is actually very well done, and while it doesn’t tie up all the loose ends (it really can’t, seeing as how the killer has never actually been caught), it does provide a lovely jumping-off point for any future endeavor.
The special features include audio commentary tracks, a making-of featurette, alternate scenes, audio options, English subtitles, and at the beginning there’ll be a trailer for Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer.
All in all, Schmidt…holy Schmidt! (pun intended)…you’ve been holding out on us! Instead of formulaic horror potboilers how about stepping up the crime drama front a little more often?
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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