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Freeway Killer (DVD)
Member Name: Jojoborne
Freeway Killer (DVD)
Advantages: A Watchable B-Movie....just about!
Disadvantages: Poor plot.
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.
Summary: A serial killer flick based loosely on William Bonin the Freeway Killer.