I bought this DVD at Walmart, and I pretty much knew going in that it would be bad. It’s a three-movies-on-one-disc package for $8.88, which usually means either Hallmark TV movies, those Snakes On A Train ripoffs or something starring Rutger Hauer.
This one, from Echo Bridge Home Entertainment (the company that brought us Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus), was different. It features three films about serial killers: Six Degrees of Helter Skelter (the Manson Family), The Ted Bundy Story and Boneyard (the tale of Leonard Lake and Charles Ng). I had actually gone to Walmart to by Liquid Plumr and gym socks, but I figured a three-pack of serial killer flicks would round out my purchases.
- Have I ever mentioned that I am an amateur true crime scholar? No? Well, now I have.
The first one I watched was Boneyard, because the crimes of Lake and Ng were particularly horrific yet have not received the widespread attention that the other two have. Lake and Ng, if you recall, were the Californians who carried out a killing spree in the 1980s that involved a secret bunker, prisoners, slavery and some of the most heinous crimes ever captured on video. Yeah, they used a video camera. There’s a Canadian connection; when Lake was arrested, he swallowed cyanide and died, while Ng fled to Calgary and was arrested for shoplifting. This led to an extensive extradition proceeding, because we in Canada don’t like to extradite people who face the death penalty. At the time, I remember thinking we should make exceptions.
Anyway, back on point: the movie called Boneyard, and advertised on the box with lurid horror-flick art, is actually a TV documentary from something called The Prosecutors. It’s sort of an A&E Investigative Reports thing, with a Bill Kurtis klone doing the voiceover. “What a crock of shit,” I said as it began to play. But I was okay with it after a while; it’s a fairly good documentary, and shed interesting light on the case, complete with re-enactments.
Then I watched The Ted Bundy Story, which isn’t The Ted Bundy Story. As the opening credits rolled, I very cleverly deduced that it’s The Stranger Beside Me, a made-for-TV adaptation of Ann Rule’s bestseller, which I have read. In this movie, Rule is played by Barbara Hershey (very, very strange casting, if you know what Rule looks like) and Bundy is played by Billy Campbell, who used to be The Rocketeer and is now Creepy Gaunt Bad Guy Of The Week. He did that Jennifer Lopez movie and now he’s typecast. He does a good job as Bundy, but the movie is nothing new; that adaptation with Mark Harmon was far superior.
Lastly: Six Degrees of Helter Skelter. This was the biggest injection of WTFness on the disc. It’s an amateur documentary hosted by Scott Michaels, a guy who runs Hollywood tours of where famous people died. He’s fairly engaging, and knows his stuff, but speaks in a nonstop monotone. And he speaks in every frame. Nonstop. The producers clearly had no rights to any archival footage, and couldn’t line up any interviews beyond the person who now lives in the Polanski house and a cop who wasn’t in any way associated with the case, so the movie consists of Michaels driving around, telling us about emails he once sent out to people who might know something. It isn’t until the last act, when he tours the site of the Spahn Movie Ranch and the decaying ruins of the Family’s long-abandoned Barker ranch, that the movie comes together … but it offersnothing new.
- Verdict: I was disappointed by the marketing and the packaging, which was very misleading, but the three films were worth watching. They weren’t terrible, and they weren’t excellent, but for a little shy of nine bucks, I don’t feel too ripped off. Meanwhile, I watched Terminator Salvation again, and I think I was too harsh on it initially, but that’s probably because I got it from the library this time, so it was free, and my standards were lower.
Note: The Echo Bridge website features this, which I think is the best synopsis of a film I’ve ever read … mostly because of the cast. And you know it’s better than that Keanu thing. I think this might be the coolest movie company on the planet.
- THE DAY THE EARTH STOPPED Available 05.18.10 Hundreds of massive intergalactic robots appear in the world’s major cities with an ultimatum: prove the value of human civilization or be destroyed. Starring Bug Hall, Judd Nelson and C. Thomas Howell. Also Available on Blu-ray.