“Dear Mr. Gacy”–a look at a serial killer

“Dear Mr. Gacy”

A Look at a Serial Killer

Amos Lassen

“Dear Mr. Gacy” is a true story based on the experiences of 18-year-old college student Jason Moss and his relationship with serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Jason appears to be a “normal” guy living a “normal” life, living at home with his parents in suburbia, attending college and dating his girlfriend. He is an overachiever who is always looking for a challenge and some new way to stand out. As part of a school assignment, he sends a carefully crafted letter to John Gacy in prison and Jason portrays himself as a vulnerable kid. Gacy had his suspicions aroused at first and he puts Jason through emotional tests via phone and letters, before allowing himself to trust the boy. Once that trust is established we get a very sick psychological game of cat and mouse between two master manipulators. Jason’s life is turned upside down and Gacy discovers new dimensions within himself. Gacy even invites Jason to visit him in prison for a private meeting and Jason agrees to go. No one could possibly have predicted what would unfold inside the maximum security cell. Jason wrote a book about the experience and named it “The Last Victim” and the film will tell you why.

The film feels like a docudrama because the cast is made up of unknowns. However once we see Jason’s mother and watch her performance, the film becomes truly realistic. All of the characters are filled with conflict and vulnerability. They come across as angry, manipulative and contradictory people. Jason’s journey seems ordinary at first, but little by little the tension mounts and we soon realize that we will not have a happy ending. This is by no means a comfortable film especially as we enter the mind of Gacy.

Most of the film is the communication between Gacy and Jason through collect calls that Gacy makes to the Moss home from the Federal Penitentiary. Through phone calls, it is easy to see Gacy’s sincerity, his rage and his power to control as situation. When Gacy’s final appeal is denied and he is given a date of execution, he convinces Jason to travel to prison where the two meet alone in a jail. It is here that Gacy peel’s back Jason’s façade leaving Jason vulnerable to the force behind the man and the rage responsible 33 individual homicides.

Svetozar Ritovski directed and it is interesting that he chose to concentrate on the period after the crimes had been committed. None of the killings are shown on film but a few are described. The film stays true to the story of Jason and his relationship with Gacy and what developed in the few months leading up to his execution by lethal injection on May 10, 1994.

Forsythe brings real power to a role of Gacy that he portrays as a raging monster unleashed by various triggers rather than a monster trying to disguise himself as humanized member of society. All of the acting is first rate. This film is deeper and more involving than the exploits of a deranged serial murderer and it is a very good film.

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