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Dumb and Dahmer

(A look at serial killer cinema)

By John Saleeby
July 1 , 2003

Remember that collection of serial killer bubble gum cards that had all the little blue haired ladies so bent out of shape a few years back? Now there's an actual series of DVDs dramatizing the lives of America's three most notorious serial killers - "Ted Bundy", "Dahmer", and "Gacy". I saw all three in less than two days and I hope you will excuse me if I do not want to talk to anybody for the next three or four months. They will, however, be the topic of my address at this year's convention of American Christian Rednecks Opposing New York Maoists (ACRONYM).

Let's start with "Dahmer" just to get it out of the way - This movie is the most ill conceived thing since "The Powers Booth Comedy Hour". The only fit response to these characters is hatred and disgust, which is exactly how I felt about the killers in "Gacy" and "Ted Bundy". But at the end of "Dahmer" I felt like I'd just sat through a "Sixty Minutes" report about some mess like Israel or the homeless - A pretty wussy way to feel about a necrophiliac cannibal, if you ask me. I understand that in Hollywood there are strictly enforced regulations on how bad you can make a homosexual look in a motion picture, but this movie is so nonjudgmental about Dahmer I worry about its creators being around children or moving into my neighborhood. I can't blame them for not wanting to show this maniac having sex with dead bodies, carving them up, eating parts of them, and dissolving the leftovers in a big blue barrel of acid - I think I may have read just one newspaper article too many - but to completely leave that out of the movie is as repulsive as including it. Jeff Dahmer was trying to create an army of zombie sex slaves, for God's sake! You're gonna make us sit through thirty, forty minutes of Jeff sitting around talking with some black guy that he doesn't even kill but we don't see anything about trying to create an army of zombie sex slaves? A Dahmer movie without cannibalism is like a Ted Nugent concert without a lot of screaming about Gun Control. What if somebody had told George Romero while he was writing "Night Of The Living Dead" "But George, why cannibalism? Can't the zombies just serve people drinks with drugs in them so they pass out and then they just . . . Uh, look at em?" Nobody's pulling any punches for Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy around here, why is everybody being so discreet for this Dahmer guy?

The movie doesn't even show Dahmer being brought to justice. But, then, can there ever be such a thing as "Justice" for a gay man in this bigoted society? Dahmer was beaten to death by another inmate in a prison bathroom - Imagine the cinematic possibilities! But that's not in the movie, probably because the guy who killed Dahmer was black and that might be racist. Not nearly as racist as actually murdering God only knows how many black people, but how dare I suggest such a thing about as delicate a flower of a man as Jeffrey Dahmer? Hell, if you're gonna whitewash the bastard's life why not go all the way and make a movie about how he was completely innocent of all the charges brought against him and was in fact a victim of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy? Get Oliver Stone to do it, he's crazy enough to do anything. Oh, am I being grouchy? Let's move on to more pleasant matters, like John Wayne Gacy. Of course he was crazy with a name like that. Our editor says that his son will be named Keanu Reeves Forbis.

I underestimated "Gacy" when I first saw it. After "Ted Bundy" and "Dahmer" this tale of a Midwestern Suburban Blue Collar Family Guy just seemed kinda . . . Wal Mart. He's just this sad Ralph Kramden kinda closet homo who sneaks young guys into the garage to rape em, kill em, and stash the bodies under the house. This guy makes more of a big deal out of a backyard Fourth Of July barbecue than he does out of murder - What's exciting about that?

But then I realized that the same simplicity, that same down home lack of pretense, was the whole point! John Wayne Gacy was the Springsteen, the John Cougar Mellencamp, the . . . Who else is boring? Oh, the Paul Westerberg of serial killers! No hype, no glamour, no flash - Just basic, no frills, straight to the point sexual assault, strangulation, and disposal the way Dad would have done it if he had done it and, who knows, maybe he did. I'm talkin' about your Dad. If my Dad had homicidal urges I'da been dead years ago. Whatever happened to the twins?

Gacy is a pretty unpleasant dude so the filmmakers liven things up with a whole bunch of goofy, funny characters freaking out over what an odd duck he is. If they had all gotten together to compare notes the whole case would have been broken much earlier. But noooo, they're all too busy to COMMUNICATE! And without communication there can be no COMMUNITY! And without community there can be no COMMUNISM! And without . . . Eh, everybody just mind yer own business, awready . . .

But you just want to hear about the Clown Stuff, right? Yeah yeah yeah, Gacy was a part time professional clown who performed at children's parties. And once he was exposed as a killer no one has hired a single clown since. Too bad he wasn't a folk singer. Gacy also spent a lot of time painting pictures of clowns. Those paintings are in great demand today (Although I don't think "John Wayne Gacy - Live At Folk City" would be much of a seller) and are seen in "Gacy" where we are hammered with one after another of them as if they are the most scary things ever. Oooohhh . . . CLOWNS!!! And then, right in the middle of em, they throw in a painting of Jesus Christ - Clown, Clown, Clown, Christ, Clown . . . What is that? Some kinda JOKE? Droll - Very, very droll. You're killin' me, I'm dyin' here, I'm gettin' my Last Rites you're so funny. But I know a good formula when I see one - Turd, Turd, Turd, Forbis, Turd . . . [ed - Oh yeah? How about HACK WRITER, HACK WRITER, SALEEBY'S A QUEER!? (It's my mag, John... I've told you not to fuck with me.)]

Titles at the end tell us Gacy's Last Words after his lethal injection were "Kiss my ass!". What they don't tell you is that his last words BEFORE that were "Kiss my ass! Kiss my dick! Kiss my butt! Kiss my nuts! Please! Please! Kiss my ass! Kiss my ass! Gimme that big prison guard Dick awready! Kiss my ass! Uh . . . "

"Ted Bundy" is easily the best of these films. Michael Reilly Burke plays Bundy and is even better than Mark Harmon in the Made For TV Bundy movie a few years ago. No, you are not seeing things - EVEN BETTER THAN MARK HARMON! You coulda knocked me over with a feather. But use the whole chicken - You won't want me to get up. I'll be pissed. Also, more than a mere "Serial Killer Movie" or a "Real Crime Movie", "Bundy" makes it as an actual "Movie". "Dahmer" and "Gacy" are too dependent on you already being freaked out by the facts of the case to get your attention - What is this, "Dragnet"? "Ted Bundy", on the other hand (It's in Dahmer's fridge), doesn't need that Jack Webb "The Story You Are About To See Is True" crap! Like all great works of Cinema "Ted Bundy" has the power to present human truth independant of anything which did or did not happen in the real world. I am never more of a Frenchman than I am at such a moment as this! Pierre! Most absinthe! My "The Errand Boy" DVD!

Conventional accounts dwell on the Jekyll and Hyde aspect of Bundy's existence - His ability to present the image of a preppy law student and political campaign worker while murdering boatloads of young women at the same time. "Ted Bundy" don't care about that! There are dozens of missing girls decomposed to dust and bones all over the Western US and anybody who thought he was such a Nice Young Man got over it a long time ago. "Ted Bundy" is a movie about A FLAT OUT RAVING NUT! YAHOOOOOOOO!! Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in "Dumb And Dumber" look like Jack and Bobby Kennedy after you've seen this movie. No, really. Just rent the DVDs and play em back to back - It's freaky!

"Ted Bundy" only shows Ted's Mark Harmon act at its closest to the breaking point - His relationship with Lee, a nice woman he is apparently using for money. This poor woman is played by a very cute actress named Boti Ann Bliss and somebody owes her a nice role after the indignities she endures in this movie. Ladies, here is hint - If you are ever in bed having sex with a guy and he asks you to pretend that you are dead, immediately chomp down with your Vaginal Teeth as hard as you can and get the hell outta there even if it means running down the street bare assed naked. No, wait, Lee can't get away cause she let Ted tie her wrists and ankles to the headboard. Hey, that Boti Ann Bliss is one flexible chick! Maybe those aren't her legs tied to the headboard? Maybe there's a hole in the mattress and she's sitting on a stool and those are a couple of fake special effects legs that we're looking at? What a movie!

Another thing, girls - Next time your boyfriend's apartment stinks real bad and he tells you it's because he left a bologna sandwich on the counter - Baloney! Who the hell eats bologna? He's got a decapitated head in there! For every guy eating bologna these days there are half a dozen playing around with dead heads! Get out! Get out before he ties you to the headboard and asks you to pretend to be dead! GO! WHILE YOU CAN!

Tom Savini did the special effects make up for "Ted Bundy", which consists mostly of painting young actresses the same shade of "Corpse Blue" he used on the zombies in "Dawn Of The Dead". The dead blue girls in "Ted Bundy" just lie around in the woods pretending to be dead. Hopefully you will be too busy going "Damn you, Ted Bundy! God damn you straight to Hell!" to notice how fine and naked they are under that blue shit . . . I guess it's too late for me. So there's another tip for you, ladies - Stay away from guys that try to paint you blue before having sex with you. Yeah, look out for guys who want to rub you down with rotten bologna and paint you blue and then tie you to the headboard - They might be using you for money!

The only scene in "Ted Bundy" I didn't understand is the one where the police find Ted's Special Fun Place out in the woods and one cop tells another they've found "three bodies and seven heads". Does that mean they found three bodies with three heads on top and four heads with no bodies? Maybe three of the heads belonged to three of the bodies? Has this matter ever come up on that "CSI" show? I dunno, the only time I ever watched that it was about a serial killer with all these little kids buried in his yard. Jesus! Don't you people ever get tired of this stuff?

Maybe we can't prevent all this killing in reality but why do people get such a kick out of it in the movies? How long until those creeps at HBO come up with a dramatic series about a serial killer? It's such an obvious idea that if they don't do it Showtime will. Aw, screw HBO and Showtime - Let's just have the god damn Serial Killer Channel, you spooks'll eat it up. Get Viacom on the phone, if they're dumb enough to go for complete ownership of Comedy Central they'll go for anything - Anything that doesn't have my name on it, I mean. You can have my Serial Killer Channel idea, makin' a pile of money is a lot more important to you than it is to me - I was exposed to John Lennon And Yoko Ono at an impressionable age. Like TNT and USA, the Serial Killer Channel will run the same three or four movies over and over again so these three movies, along with "Henry-Portrait Of A Serial Killer", will comprise eighty percent of it's programming. Late night the Channel will go off the air for paid programming and if you put that "Girls Gone Wild" infomercial on it will be in even worse taste than usual. Maybe you can put a blue tint on the video?

It's too late for me.

What do you think? Leave your comments on the Guestbook!

John Saleeby wrote for The National Lampoon while he was in high school, was a stand up comic in New York, and has contributed to the net humor zines, Campaign Central, and the legendary American Jerk. He's on medication now so he's probably a little nicer now than he was when you met him earlier.
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