Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

The man’s name was John Wayne Gacy and in a century that was filled to the brim with sick bastards, this cat here just might’ve been the worst. Convicted of thirty three murders of young men and boys, the majority of which were buried under his house in his crawl space, this fat bastard was a killing machine like few others before or since. In his book ‘The Last Victim’ Jason Moss wrote of his attempts to get close to Gacy, now on death row with his execution imminent. Gacy had long maintained that he was innocent of the murders, despite all of the bodies that were found in crawl space. I know… I know… but that's what he claimed. Moss believed, for a term paper he was working on, that he could manipulate Gacy into telling him things that he refused to tell the police or the myriad of psychologist that interviewed him. Moss was aware that Gacy was a master manipulator but he thought he was one step ahead of the man, while Gacy thought he had a nice young punk he could play with as he had played with so many before. Both men underestimated each other and this is what ‘Dear Mr. Gacy’ chronicles in ‘Based On a True Story’ form.

In 1994 Jason Moss (Jesse Moss) needed a subject for his criminology final term paper and he chose John Wayne Gacy (William Forsythe) who will be put down in six months after fourteen years on death row. Moss wanted to take a different path though, he wanted get into the mind of a serial killer and thus armed with the knowledge that Gacy likes boys he sends the man a few suggestive photos of himself to insure a response. I’m almost certain that Moss used Blue Steel in a couple of those poses.

Sure enough Gacy is intrigued by the boy. Moss fabricated an entire back story for his fictional self and Gacy ate it up. Moss subsequently declares himself a genius figuring he’s pretty safe since the dude is locked away a couple thousand miles away in a maximum security facility, and the game is afoot. What follows are some rather disturbing conversations, which is basically what this movie consists of, between Moss and Gacy in which the boy learns firsthand the depths of John Wayne Gacy’s depravity. He was not prepared for this. Hell, I wasn’t prepared to watch him be unprepared for this.

Gacy liked to paint pictures of clowns and these pictures afforded him about as lavish a lifestyle as any death row inmate could expect to have. As a side note I’ve seen some of Gacy’s clown paintings and the painting they had the art department draw up for this movie was far more professional than the absolutely awful and infantile paintings that John Wayne Gacy put on canvas. Awful. Anyway, because Gacy had money he had the means to manipulate prison guards to an extent, and when Moss became summarily horrified by Gacy and tried to distance himself, Gacy was able to convince the boy that he had reach far beyond the walls of that Illinois prison he was stuck in. Now he has to see this thing through to the end which includes a visit to Gacy on Death Row. No worries though because it’s not like he’s going to be face to face with the lunatic. Or not.

One of the things that works in this movie that is not representative of real life events is that William Forsythe is so much more physically oppressive than the rather slight Jesse Moss which gives their final scene together a lot more dramatic impact. In real life Gacy looked like an evil little troll and Jason Moss looked to be a good foot taller than he was. In that semi-controlled prison environment where Gacy didn’t have access to his trick handcuffs, drugs, and other murder paraphernalia I’d be far less concerned about that fat bastard attacking me than if I was oblivious in his living room on 8213 West Summerdale. I’m not too sure about how that part as plays out in the movie in relation to actual events.

Regardless ‘Dear Mr. Gacy’ is a pretty chilling recount of the relationship between Jason Moss and John Wayne Gacy with the majority of this frost coming from the performance of William Forsythe as John Wayne Gacy. I don’t know enough about Gacy to say with any certainty that Forsythe captured the essence of the serial killer, but he sure did capture the essence of a sick bastard, that’s for sure. On the rare occasion that they showed flashbacks of Gacy before he went to prison doing his… thing… it was not pleasant to watch. Jesse Moss did well to with the character of Jason Moss and one could easily argue that Jesse Moss had the more difficult dramatic role to travel from arrogance, to disturbed, until finally settling on completely humbled.

Director Svestozar Rivstovski handles his subject matter surprisingly well considering there’s not a lot of traditional action in this film, being that this is a movie that is more psychological in nature. For some I can see where it might move too slowly but from my vantage point, considering the angle this film was working from, the pitch was just about right. There wasn’t a lot of weight given to the supporting characters such as the hysterical girlfriend, the unreasonably coarse mother or the detached father but they weren’t the focus of this movie.

‘Dear Mr. Gacy’ was a difficult movie to watch but an interesting movie nonetheless. Personally speaking I wish we didn’t have this continuing fascination with these monsters but that notwithstanding ‘Dear Mr. Gacy’ is solid and unique entry into the genre.

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