Directed by Svetozar Ristovski
Written by Kellie Madison & Clark Peterson
Starring William Forsythe, Jesse Moss, & Jeffrey Kottler
Creepy, creepy, creepy. That’s what DEAR MR. GACY is. With deft performances by the two main actors, this is a film that is above the usual serial killer docu-films out there today. There have been quite a few films dedicated to the telling of the backstories of some of the 20th Century’s most notorious serial killers; there was even one called GACY starring Francis from PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE which I haven’t seen yet and a “found footage” film called 8213: GACY HOUSE out soon as well which I have yet to see. But instead of trying to retell the life story of John Wayne Gacy, DEAR MR. GACY focuses on a small portion of the notorious clown faced killer’s life. In whittling the story down to these dramatic days, director Svetozar Ristovski and writers Kellie Madison & Clark Peterson have made this a more compelling study of a very sick man.
The story is structured somewhat reminiscent of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS or the recent CAPOTE with the maniac behind bars interacting with a naïve inquisitor from beyond the walls of prison. Here, an ambitious college student Jason Moss (played by Jesse Moss) wants to get an exclusive interview with death row inmate John Wayne Gacy (played superbly by William Forsythe). But in order to get into Gacy’s circle of trust, Jason is going to have to go to dark recesses of his mind he never thought he had. As the relationship between Moss and Gacy deepens, DEAR MR. GACY gets darker and darker. This is a sophisticated film, one that doesn’t go for easy scares, but rather sets out with a slow tension that builds and multiplies in intensity right up until the final scenes.
The film hangs on the performances by Moss and Forsythe and both deliver and then some. Forsythe is a great actor, but often doesn’t get roles like this where he can show more than just menace. When we first see Gacy, he’s gentle as a kitten, making small talk with the prison guards and peacefully walking about his cell. One might actually think that he isn’t capable of the atrocious acts he’s accused of. His interaction with Moss is playful at first, but as the film goes on, one can see the charisma Gacy must have had to lure his victims in. But Moss thinks he’s too smart for Gacy (a huge mistake), sending him letters with provocative photos sprayed with cologne to appeal to Gacy on a carnal level. The relationship that develops between the two will make you wince and cringe. The scene where Gacy instructs Moss over the phone how to molest his younger brother effectively is probably one of the most chilling scenes I’ve seen in a while. Actor Jesse Moss’ performance as Jason Moss is the surprise here. Moss is sort of a cross between Ben Foster and a less annoying Shia LeBeouf. He goes toe to toe with Forsythe and the younger, less experienced actor never flinches. This is a brave performance by both actors. In the hands of lesser thespians, the film would be flimsy, but with these two guys in the starring roles, DEAR MR. GACY cuts and stings and leaves a scar.
DEAR MR. GACY was a top notch film that left me unsettled and riveted all at once. It’s a descent into madness tale that has plot points you may have seen before, but the performances make it a lot more than that. Though it is often uncomfortable to watch, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from experiencing this eerie relationship develop between Moss and Gacy. DEAR MR. GACY is being released today on DVD & BluRay. It’s a tension filled tale of a man just as dangerous behind bars as he was when he was free.