Sunday, August 1, 2010

Berdella (2009)


Written by William Taft
Directed by William Taft & Paul South

Bob Berdella...Seth Correa

By day, Bob Berdella was the proprietor of  Bob's Bazaar Bizarre in Kansas City Missouri, and occasional food critic for the Kansas City Star.  He was a pudgy little schlub, a laughable loser of sorts.  The kind of guy who browses gay pornography in public parks, slings heroin to his friends, and tortures and murders young men in his historical home.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Bob Berdella was a serial killer?  Between the years of 1984 and 1988, he was responsible for at least six homicides.  This film attempts to do for Berdella what Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer did for Henry Lee Lucas.  Unfortunately it fails.  It often feels less like Henry and more like a reenactment from America's Most Wanted.

It's obviously a low budget feature, but I don't hold that against it.  In the right hands, a cheaply made film can transcend its origins.  This, however, isn't one of those films.  The acting is sub-par almost straight across the board, and the filmmakers seem intent on making connections between Bob's homosexuality and his degenerate murderous tendencies, as if the two were mutually exclusive.  We're a decade into the 2K years.  Aren't we beyond this ignorant crap yet?  Presenting his homosexuality as a fact is one thing, but playing it for chills in the same way that the murders are presented is another thing entirely.

There are some cringe-inducing scenes, and a number of situations that are just downright ooky.  Berdella comes across as a creepy, misogynistic ice cream man...the kind of fella you warn your children to stay away from.  And for good reason.  Those fake skulls he sells at his store?  Turns out, they're not so fake after all!  How much of these events are factual and how much is artistic invention is up for discussion, but not by me.  I'm not all that interested.

The few chilling moments that did manage to snake their way in are not enough to save this from its destiny as a dollar-bin clunker.  It could have fared better if there was at least some attempt to explain Berdella's psychotic break, and if the decidedly tacked-on non-ending had been replaced with...oh, I don't actual ending?

Kudos to these guys for making this film and for casting an eye on the darker side of local color, even if it wasn't my cup of tea.  I have a feeling that, like the films of Abel Ferrara, it's easier to get it if you're local.  And I may be relatively nearby...but as a nomad, I ain't all that local.

Not Rated
80 Minutes
United States

(visit the official website)


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