THE HILLSIDE STRANGLER
Directed by Chuck Parello
Produced by Michael Avery
Written by Chuck Parello & Stephen Johnston
Cast: C. Thomas Howell, Nicholas Turturro, Allison Lange, Lin Shaye, Molly Brenner, Aimee Brooks & Hal Cutler
2004/98 mins/Color/2.0 Dolby Surround
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/US/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Tartan Video DVD
The story begins in 1977, young Kenneth Bianchi (C. Thomas Howell... yes the C. Thomas from SOUL MAN!) is working as a security guard in Rochester, N.Y. at a department store. Kenneth studies Psychology through books and watch videos of Police investigations in hoping to become a cop. Feeling that his life is going nowhere as he keeps getting rejected from becoming a cop, his mother sends him to his cousin Angelo Buono (Turturro) in the beautiful and colorful Los Angeles.
It isn't long before Angelo shows Kenneth the wild and sleezy lifestyle of the West Coast. Pornography, strip clubs, group sex and drugs are soon becoming common activities for the duo. Even though he as a fake psychotherapy practice in his apartment Kenneth can't find a job at the L.A.P.D.. Angelo suggest that they make some easy money and get into the whore business. They soon take a very beautiful but naïve young girl under their reign. Things gets bad for them when one of their connection goes wrong and the Pimp and his posse pay them a visit, taking Angelo's guns and money. Angelo wants revenge on the prostitute that messed with them. Along with Kenneth they soon find Gabrielle and choke her to death, dumping her body on the hillside.
But this wasn't enough and they want revenge on all the women of the world... their reign of terror would last two years!
Certainly one of the most unusual and gruesome crime case in the history of America, Chuck Parello's movie takes a look into the raw and grim story of two cousins working together (something that rarely happens as serial killer usually work alone) to abduct, rape and murder women. It was originally though of the police that there was only one killer. To make things worse, at first police didn't seemed to care, until one Thanksgiving week when five bodies were discovered within days of each other. In all they slaughtered at least fourteen females, two of the victims were only twelve and fourteen when they were murdered. They were not prostitutes, but girls who had been abducted from their middle-class neighborhoods.
Even though both were very sick in the head, they managed to come up with good ideas to get their victims, mainly pretending to be cops. And to make things worse, Kenneth had a girlfriend called Claire (the beautiful Allison Lange portraying Kelli Boyd in real life) who got a baby out of their relation. Kenneth's mistake was when he killed two women in Bellingham, Washington. It was then that he became the number one suspect and got arrested. Piece by piece, the evidence mounted that Kenny Bianchi was at least one of the Hillside Stranglers. The jewelry that was found in Bianchi's home matched the description of jewelry that was worn by two of the victims.
Once caught, Bianchi faked split personality syndrome, and their trial was one of the longest in criminal history. He even managed to have a girlfriend, Veronica Compton. She was supposedly writing a play called The Mutilated Cutter about a woman serial killer. She wanted desperately to talk to him to understand better the mind of a murderer. Kenneth asked her to be a copy cat killer so that he might get free... thankfully she failed.
Even though this was shot just over 15 days, Parello managed to make one of the best of the recent serial killer flick. Surprisingly, the film is pretty accurate with most of the "key" elements of this whole crime story are in the film. After working on the infamous HENRY PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, he directed the sequel MASK OF SANITY and the awfuly handled ED GEIN. C. Thomas Howell gives a great performance as Bianchi who's a failure and compulsive liar. Turturro is also very good as the sadistic and violent Buono. Another strong point of the film is the cinematography which really takes us back to the late '70s.
Tartan video released two version on DVD, for this review I watched the unrated. The screener disc had no extras so I won't be able to rate these features but the package list deleted scenes, trailer and cast interviews. Even though the package states a 2.35:1 ratio and a 5.1 Dolby Digital, the screener version is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic aspect ratio. The image is clear and crisp and features no compression, artifacts or default of any kind. We get a very good, clear and effective 2.0 Dolby Surround audio track in English. Optional removable Spanish subtitles are also available. The static menus are nicely designed, the disc comes in a keep case with no booklet or inlay card.
This Film Features:
Review by Kim Dubuisson. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©
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