This is an odd fish. It’s a documentary about Bob Berdella, who raped, tortured, killed and dismembered six men in the late 80’s. Director Benjamin Meade combines interviews with the investigators, the prosecutor, a survivor and Berdella himself with gruesome recreations of the crimes, an expectedly hard-boiled narration from James Ellroy, and incongruous performances of songs by the rock band “Demon Dogs.” The result is certainly interesting, but it jumps around so much that it can become h…rd to follow (structurally, it resembles Glen or Glenda? done by someone with talent). There’s a lot of raw power here, somewhat diluted by the songs that, though catchy enough, are more puzzling than anything else by their presence.
The audio format here is 2-channel MPEG, and the sound, though it gets the job done, is pretty rough. There is a totally indiscriminate surround effect (all sounds emerging from all speakers), and a fair bit of buzz. In the trailer, at one point Ellroy’s voice fades to almost total inaudibility. A few other similar issues seem to be problems that have more to do with the initial recording than the transfer, such is the “Postmortem” featurette where the participants don’t always seem to be speaking into their microphones.
Things are even more raw here, but one should remember that the film was shot in 8mm, so the extremely noticeable grain is to be expected. In fact, that graininess creates a disturbingly gritty feel during the murder recreations. All in all, from colours on down, we’re very much in the ultra-low-budget documentary range. As far as the transfer is concerned, it’s presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1, which means that the grain and sharpness only get worse when the picture is blown up for a 16:9 screen.
There are two bios here, for Ellroy and Meade. The latter mentions Meade’s use of an unconventional visual “grammer.” Now, we all make typos, but this would have been an easy one to catch – there isn’t that much writing on this disc. The “Postmortem” is the cast and crew reminiscing about the filming – a bit more interesting for them than for us. The four deleted scenes are also behind-the-scenes footage. There’s also a still gallery and the trailer. The menu’s main screen is scored, but the other screens are animated as well. Odd.
If you have a strong interest in serial killers, this will be a gruesome feast for you. It’s an interesting film, though I don’t think it completely pulls off all of its intended effects.
Special Features List
- Cast and Crew Discussion
- Deleted Scenes
- Still Gallery