Freeway Killer Film and DVD
Here I am again wading through the sludge that is B-movie Serial Killer hell and I find myself with that same feeling of hopefulness yet trepidation in the probable, almost guaranteed fact that this movie will be trash.
Thankfully, this time I am only mildly disappointed. This movie is not badly directed and the acting performances, especially that of the lead actor, are rather good. The only thing that lets the movie down is the plot as it is not strong enough or involving enough by half. It is a shame because a half decent TV movie could've been made from this. They had the basis for the story from the real life actions of William Bonin a.k.a The Freeway Killer, but unfortunately that's all they have and any creativity story-wise is lost on the viewer.
When the credits rolled up I had a nice surprise as I saw the name Eileen Dietz. For those horror fans reading this that name will ring a bell or should do as she was the lady who played the famous subliminally shot face in the exorcist. The funny thing is, even thirty-seven years later (This movie was made in 2010 and the Exorcist in nineteen seventy-four) you can still recognise that famous skull shape. She plays the role of William Bonin's Mother.
Another surprise on the opening credits was Michael Rooker. Rooker is another legend of this genre of course, after playing Henry Lee Luca in McNaughton's 'Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer'. Rooker went on to being one of the few actors from these type of movies that go on to make it to the big screen and was also brilliant as Daryl's brother in 'The Walking Dead' series.
Bonin himself is played by Scott Anthony Leet. I thought Leet was brilliant in this role and he really made the character creepy and desperate, which is exactly what Bonin was. Again, it is a shame that the plot is so weak because Leet could've come out of this movie with some great accolades. Even so, he did show that he can act and I think he was perfect for the role. You may or may not know that Leet was a professional football player in the United States and played for the Dallas Cowboys and the St Louis Rams. A devastating knee injury meant that he would never play football again. Leet was quite a bright boy and left college with a marketing degree. He was well known amongst friends for his impersonations of famous people and he also won competitions at comedy clubs by doing these impersonations. He decided that he wanted to get involved in the entertainment business and ended up at Hollywood's famous Actors Studio. He has written various b-movie screenplays and also starred in a few low budget movies, including this movie in 2010. His break may have come in 2012 when he got to play a small role in Ben Affleck's 'Argo'. He is also playing a role in 'The Hangover Part 3'. He seems like a good guy and I hope he gets to take on a few meatier roles. Leet also started writing music after being devastated by the 9/11 attack. He was penning a movie script at that time and decided to shelve it due to the attack. He wrote a song that was influenced by the terrorist attack and formed his own rock n roll band. Leet is also good at chess and is in fact a chess 'Master'.
Director John Murkowski did a good job on this movie and it actually flows along really nicely at a good pace. The editing is well done and the cinematography for such a small budget movie is keen and crisp. His main films seem to be children's comedies, such as 'Santa With Muscles' and 'Cop Dog' but he has also directed this movie, 'Amityville: A New Generation' and in 2012 'Zombie Hamlet'. So kids films or B-movie horror or serial killer flicks; well, you can't get much different than that.
Dusty Sorg plays Vernon Butts who is William Bonin's accomplice. He plays the role well and the character comes through as one of life's drifters on a different plane to most people, which is exactly what was required. He worked as a receptionist at the comedy store for two years and part of the job was to actually do stand-up, which he managed to do quite well apparently. He plays off Leet quite well in an understated role.
Cole Williams plays the part of 'Kyle', a young impressionable man who is fed up of his girlfriend and his boss. Bonin picks up on this and trains him up as a third member of the group. Williams plays the role well and reminds me a little of Edward Furlong in both his looks and his acting.
Michael Rooker plays the surveillance cop who eventually tracks Bonin down and later talks to him in prison to get Bonin to give some of the victims' families release through knowing what happened to their son, brother or grandson. Rooker downplays the part and only appears for about ten minutes in all on screen.
Anyway, let's take a look at the plot, not that there is much to really take a look at and then I'll give an overview of the real William Bonin to further give you insight to what the movie is about.
The story begins with serial killer William Bonin a.k.a The Freeway Killer in prison awaiting execution and talking to the Mother of one of his victims or so she thinks. Bonin has duped her into coming in to visit him with false hope of information on her son.
The movie then goes back to Bonin's life before capture and we see Bonin inviting two hitchhikers for a ride in his Chevy van, charming them into his bravado and confidence. Once he has them in his van and reduced to zombies through smoking weed, he murders one and reveals an alliance with accomplice Vernon Butts. Soon, Bonin over hears Kyle's boss treating him like dirt in the garage were Kyle works and then later outside he is again treated with disdain by his girlfriend and Bonin watches with relish. Initially planning to kill him, Bonin offers him a friendship of sorts.
Bonin introduces him to Butts, and they show him their "family album" of murders. Bonin teaches Kyle to give in to his violent impulses, and eventually guides Kyle into committing his first murder. Unsatisfied, Bonin embarks on a hunt for more young men, taking Kyle with him and Kyle begins to slowly realise that all this is wrong and gets away from Bonin. Bonin loses his already tentative grip on reality and is convinced that the police are following him. However, his need to kill outweighs his fear of getting caught and he goes out once more to find his next victim.
William Bonin was an American serial killer also known as the Freeway Killer who committed the rape, torture and murder of at least 21 boys and young men in a series of killings between nineteen seventy-nine and nineteen eighty in southern California. Bonin is also suspected of committing a further fifteen murders. He was convicted of 14 of these murders and was executed by lethal injection in 1996. He was the first ever inmate to be executed by lethal injection in the state of California. This was something that Bonin felt especially proud of.
Bonin became known as the Freeway Killer due to the fact that most of his victims' bodies were discovered alongside various southern California freeways and turn off junctions that ran on and off them. There were other bodies but for the main part his dumping ground was the freeway.
Bonin is another killer who could've been stopped so much early and the lives of many innocent young men could've been saved. At the age of twenty-one he was arrested for kidnapping and sexually assaulting four boys between the ages of twelve and eighteen. He was convicted and sentenced to the Atascadero State Hospital as a mentally disordered sexual offender. In 1971, he was sent to prison, declared unsuitable for further treatment. Bonin was released in May nineteen seventy-four after doctors concluded he was "no longer a danger to others." How many times do we hear that about serial killers? Within 16 months of his release, Bonin had been charged with the gunpoint rape of a 14-year-old hitchhiker named David McVicker] and the attempted abduction of another teenager, for which he was sentenced to between one and 15 years' imprisonment at the California Men's Facility in San Luis Obispo.
On October 11, nineteen seventy-eight, at thirty-one years of age, Bonin was released from prison on eighteen months' probation. Upon his release, Bonin moved to an apartment complex in the city of Downey in southeast Los Angeles County, where he found employment as a truck driver and he even began dating a girl. Whether this was to throw off his probation officer is open for debate but I think it was most definitely an attempt to draw attention from him.
Shortly after moving to Downey, one of Bonin's friends introduced him to a 22-year-old factory worker and part-time magician named Vernon Butts and a 19-year-old Texas native named Gregory Miley. Both would end up assisted Bonin in murder. When arrested, Butts would be convicted of assisted Bonin with nine murders and would kill himself in prison. Gregory Miley assisted Bonin with two murders or more, including the youngest victim who was only twelve years old. Gregory Miley is probably the character named Kyle in the movie. Bonin had two other semi-assistants who were not really that willing to participate. James Munroe was offered a place to stay with Bonin but it was unclear how much if anything he knew of Bonin's nocturnal activities until it was later found out that he accompanied Bonin on his last kill and fled the state on Bonin's arrest. William Pugh is a different story and he was once picked up by Bonin and asked if he wanted to participate in the 'picking up' of some young boys and watch while Bonin had sex with them. Somehow he managed to talk himself out of it and Bonin dropped him off at his home. Pugh was later arrested for car theft and once the Freeway killing s became high profile in the papers, he told his solicitor that he felt Bonin could be the killer.
Once in custody Bonin confessed to twenty-one murders and told the police about his three accomplices. Based on Bonin's confession, police arrested Vernon Butts and charged him with accompanying Bonin on five of the murders. He was later charged with four other murders. Munro was arrested in Michigan and charged with the murder of Steven Wells, the last victim and Miley was arrested in Texas and charged with two murders. Butts, Miley and Munro all agreed to testify against Bonin in exchange for being spared the death penalty for their roles in the killings.
Bonin never showed any remorse for his victims and no regrets right up until the moment of his execution and I bet even then he felt some kind of twisted satisfaction for the victims that never came to light.
Over all I would place this movie in the upper echelons of its own genre as it is not far from the true story and the lead role played by Leet is actually quite accomplished. I say accomplished in the fact that he got into the character. Maybe it wouldn't win him any thespian type awards had it been on stage but nevertheless he did play a particularly hard to play character with at least some guile and dexterity. Even the lesser characters were played well and as I've mentioned earlier, it is a shame because the plot really lets the performances down. I don't mean to trash the script that was written by David Birke because he worked with what he had but I just think that a little more background would've helped. Then again the writer, director and producers may have intentionally steered away from this because Bonin's background was one of abuse and neglect and the movie would've fell into that age old cliché of 'oh he was dropped on his head as a youngster' and went on to wet the bed and torture animals; so for that reason I can understand that they took a different angle on it. Saying that though, it was also a chance to show that some individuals are naturally sociopathic and really have no conscience or empathy when it comes to the taking of another human beings life.
Whatever the reason for the way they chose to film it, the movie does stand up as at least watchable in a genre where so many of these movies are not, so for that and for Leets performance, I give it two out of five stars.
RELEASED: 2010, Cert. 18
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 85 mins
DIRECTOR: John Murlowski
PRODUCERS: Nadine Corde & Tim Swain
SCREENPLAY: David Birke
MUSIC: Erik Godal
Scott Anthony Leet as William Bonin
Dusty Song as Vernon
Cole Williams as Kyle
Thomas Curtis as Billy
Debbon Ayer as Ruth
Michael Rooker as Det. St. John
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Based on the true story of serial killer William Bonin who was labelled The Freeway Killer until his capture and subsequent execution, Freeway Killer begins with Bonin in prison, under guard, being questioned by Ruth, the mother of one of his victims, who is seeking some kind of justification or reason for Bonin murdering her son.
The film then flashes back to the point where with the help of self-proclaimed wizard Vernon, we see William Bonin luring young male hitchhikers into his van, befriending them, then bumping them off, carelessly disposing of their bodies on grassy banks which border the LA highway.
A few days later while Bonin is driving around alone, he lures young man Kyle into his van after seeing him unfairly chastised by both his girlfriend and employer. Kyle happily joins Bonin, sharing tokes on his joints, but after a while as they are driving around and him witnessing the volatile, rather disturbing nature of Bonin's personality, he becomes wary. However, Bonin and Kyle form an uneasy friendship, and when Kyle is introduced to Vernon, he (Vernon) becomes jealous as it appears that Bonin now wants Kyle to be his partner in crime.
It is obvious, right from the start, that Freeway Killer is a very low budget affair. The colour isn't good, it having a slight greenish hue, and some of the opening scenes are constructed quite clumsily. It also felt a bit disjointed to me in that it seemed to leap into the storyline in a rather ham-fisted fashion, but I was immediately impressed with Scott Anthony Leet's acting.
The first thirty so minutes of Freeway Killer are somewhat bitty and ill-constructed, in that although it isn't at all difficult to work out what is happening, everything seems scrappy and disconnected. It does pull together though, and bearing in mind this is a film based on a real serial killer and a true story, the focus settles on the highly disturbed serial killer William Bonin's personality.
Scott Anthony Leet I feel was absolutely brilliant as the volatile, sometimes charming and friendly, sometimes childishly hostile and sometimes murderous Bonin...everything he says and does is geared towards the luring and killing of his prey. The serial killer psychology is presented very well in this film, more than ably assisted by Leet's excellent acting. He perfected a maniacal laugh which isn't at all silly or over the top...it actually is very similar to the one Peter Sutcliffe, The Yorkshire Ripper, was well-known for, and is a common characteristic amongst serial killers. Along with this disturbing laugh, Leet managed to inject an expression into his dark brown - almost black - eyes which is one of utter callousness, coldness, being devoid of any benevolence.
The other actors were OK, but not brilliant, my favourite of them being Dusty Song as Vernon the wannabe wizard. He started off a bit shakily, but improved as the film went on. I also think that part of the problem with the acting from the remainder of the cast not being up to par, is that at certain points in the film, the dialogue leaves a bit to be desired.
Before watching this film, I did have some awareness of William Bonin the real Freeway Killer, as I have a morbid fascination with the serial killer psychology, and I can say that the storyline of this film does stick quite accurately to a small portion of Bonin's life and activities, but it gives very little idea of his background, what motivated him, how he came to be in league with Vernon and there were no details of his previous arrests and internments. An alcoholic mother is vaguely hinted at, and she does appear briefly in the film, but Bonin's early life was much more dysfunctional and disturbed than the film suggests.
As a film, I didn't find Freeway Killer boring, but I do feel that without the superb acting from Scott Anthony Leet, it would have been a complete and utter damp squib, as there was very little else anywhere near attention-grabbing. I can't praise or criticise the story, because of it being factual, but the dramatisation of this part of Bonin's life could have been constructed and put across in a far more meaningful, convincing way, by tidying up some of the scrappy bits and giving a greater insight into Bonin as a person through being told more about his life history and what thoughts occupied his mind during his private moments.
All in all, I have seen far better dramatisations of true life events, particularly that of various serial killers, and it really was only Scott Anthony Leet who held the whole thing together, succeeding in keeping my attention and not clicking the 'eject' button. I do like to see something in factual stories about serial killers stimulate a degree of curiosity in me as to why their victims allow themselves to be drawn into their net, but I didn't get that buzz from this film. I did force myself though to ponder on the ease with which young men so easily jumped into Bonin's van, especially Kyle who ended up being his assistant, and the only answer I can come up with is that serial killers such as Charles Manson - and in this case Bonin - often prey on people who are needy, in trouble, societal misfits or vulnerable. This only vaguely comes across as so in the case of Kyle, and I feel more emphasis should have been placed on ascertaining Kyle's reasons for hanging around on the scene once he knew what Bonin was up to, as he didn't seem weak-willed or vulnerable enough to have been drawn in so easily. Perhaps that was poor acting or poor direction/production? It is hard to say.
Even though Freeway Killer could only ever be slotted into the 'B' movie status, I nonetheless found it fairly enjoyable - if that is the right word - but as said above, such was almost 100% down to Scott Anthony Leet's brilliant portrayal of William Bonin.
If you don't mind putting up with all the hit and miss elements of this film and would like to be fascinated by one single marvellous piece of acting from the main character, Freeway Killer is something you might enjoy, but don't expect too much from it. Due to the subject matter of the film, it of course does contain some violence, but nothing particularly gut-churning or that may put you off your dinner, although it certainly isn't one for the kids.
I'm not quite sure what star rating to give Freeway Killer. I want to award a full house for Scott Anthony Leet's acting, but would only dole out two for everything else, so I shall go middle ground and give it three.
At the time of writing, Freeway Killer can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £2.46 to £4.24
Used: none currently available
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but there this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
William (Bill) Bonin (Scott Anthony Leet) has finally been caught and is in prison. He committed several murders on many young men in California and in the Orange County in the 70's and 80's. We find this out fast through a conversation he is having with a woman who is visiting him who wants to know about what happened to her son and then the film gets going as with his recollections and that's how the movie is played out....going back in time.
Him and his mate Vernon (Dusty Sorg) go out in a van and pick up men regularly. Bill does the deed and Vernon, his long standing partner in crime and friend takes the pictures to chronicle events. On another trip where Bill goes to kill he meets a young lad called Kyle (Cole Williams) who at first looks like he's also had it and about to get himself killed but strikes up an odd friendship with Bill and becomes involved in Bills world.
Vernon the wizard (yes he thinks he's a wizard!) starts to feel his nose pushed out and the friendship between him and Bill which looked rock solid at first seems to be under strain and Bill being volatile as he is....well who knows what could happen there!
Bill though gets hungry to be more shocking get more accomplices. Can he hold on to Kyle and can he convince the next guy to work with him or will that be how his cover is blown? What will happen to Bill? When the police catch up with (as shown at the beginning of the film) what will happen t his life. Will he let people know what he did to the young boys and the men he killed and will he face the death penalty in America or not?
I love a good true life story, they fascinate me. I really wanted to understand the reasons in his own head as to why, see his past and dig into what turned this person into a hard hearted, violent killer. In honesty though I just didn't and I didn't feel like the film did any of that for me.
The reason I haven't written a lot about the plot is because it is what it is. It's about a crazy man who goes out and randomly kills people. Like I say though I wanted to see why in his mind he did it. All I got was that he fancied doing it and quite liked it. I felt there was a homo erotic sort of reason behind it though nothing sexual was ever show though on the case the dvd came in we are told that bodies turned up 'beaten, sexually assaulted and mutilated'. Well I saw him kill them which was quick and painful but as for the rest no it didn't happen in the movie and as this happened in real life I felt that the sexual stuff should have been included just so we saw his motivation...if you know what I mean. I do not mean I wanted to see sexual abuse as such but I do think it should have been hinted at.
This felt avery low budget film indeed though I have to be fair to the guy that played Bill, Scott did do his very best and had the look of a crazed killer and I did like his up and down portrayal of Bill and the supporting cast were not too bad but the plot was flimsy and just simply not what I expected at all.
I admit to falling asleep towards the last five minutes of it to which I did rewind it and watch the ending but seriously this was all I can describe as....as rubbish! Gritty? Not really/ Horrifying gory? Nope and did I care about anything or learn anything at the end? Nope just had to curl up and sleep through what is meant to be a gripping and intense drama. Both me and my mate gave this a one star........ Cos we had to!
Myself and my mate rented this from Blockbuster for £2.00 though it is available to purchase from a variety or places including Amazon at about a fiver for a new copy including p+p but take my advice on this....don't flipping bother
Rated 18, runtime 85 approx.
This review is also posted on Ciao under this same username.