Featuring: Mark “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” Holton , Charlie “‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’” Weber , Adam “Full Metal Jacket” Baldwin
Director: Clive “Love for $17.50” Saunders
Writers: Clive “Love for $17.50” Saunders & David “Elle” Birke
Also Known As: The Crawl Space
Hello, children. Sorry for the lack of content for the holiday season this year. I was helping Sobek file a defamation lawsuit against Geico on behalf of himself and other anthropomorphic members of the Crocodylia order over their “alligator arms” commercial. The litigation process has taken up a lot of my time and I have a bad feeling we’re not gonna win this one. Which especially sucks, because if we lose I don’t get paid, and if I don’t get paid, there are going to be some very disappointed shapeless horrors down in Cthuwhoville come Cthuyule morning. For anyone who hasn’t seen said discriminatory advertisement, here it is. Be warned though, if you’re of a delicate nature when it comes to vulgar specism, I don’t recommend watching it.
Disgusting. Speaking of disgusting, given my inability to provide any calendar apropos reviews about homicidal maniacs dressed up like Saint Nick, I thought I’d instead use this month’s Zodiac review to focus on another rotund man who dressed up in his own colorfully festive outfit and also enjoyed having young men in his lap!
Just a quick statement of random weirdness before we get started – I came up with the “Pogo’s Big Adventure” alternate title for this episode before discovering that Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure antagonist Francis (Mark Holton) plays the titular human horror show. Crazy, right? If my brain doesn’t time travel while I sleep, I’d be surprised. Especially since I keep buying pills from a blind woman behind Dollar Embargo that says they do just that…
Today’s movie calls itself “semi-biographical” and was produced in those glory days of the early aughts when it felt like a new direct-to-DVD movie about one real life serial killer or another was materializing on the New Releases shelf at Blockbuster every few months. Despite my enjoyment of the true monsters who make fictional fiends look like sugar plum fairies in comparison, the only of said movies I’d actually seen before this was Ed Gein. Not just because Eddie G’s my favorite maniac (because of the horror classics he inspired), but because it starred my favorite Charles Manson, Steve Railsback, as Wisconsin‘s favorite son! It also featured the always amusingly monikered Carrie Snodgrass. Heh heh, “Snodgrass”.
Speaking of people with names, here’s one of my patented Fun Facts for ya, Gacy co-writer David Birke also wrote the screenplay to Elle – a French revenge film that sees the head of a video game studio hunting down her rapist in one of those “games of cat and mouse” dealies. That tried and true term always brings to my fore-brain the thought of two people assaulting each other with frying pans and rolling pins a la Tom & Jerry. As of this review, Elle‘s actually a Golden Globe nominee for “Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language”, so Gacy could very well become retroactively artsy post-January 8th!
[Writer’s note: Elle did indeed win the little gold planetoid! Whether that ups Gacy‘s stock though has yet to be seen.]
Now, mothers and fathers, it’s time to gather the kids (but especially the boys) and teach them why shit like “stranger danger” may be the best life lesson for them to learn since “look both ways before crossing the streams”.
As soon as the opening credits start in, this lacking-in-funds line dance kicks off on the wrong foot. The background music is appropriately ominous and understated (not unlike our movie’s subject), but the credits themselves reek of “Lifetime Original” bullshit, transitioning in and out of focus as they enter and leave the screen. They’re too goofy not to groan at, which is never a good way to start off your movie about a murderous rapist of teen boys who spent his weekends dressing like a clown for kids’ parties! Oh, spoiler alert if you’ve never heard of John Wayne Gacy. Anyway, the power point presentation my friends and I put together for Civics class back in ’98 had a better credit roll than this tripe. And now, this free tripe!
(There was supposed to be a gif of this, but I kinda forgot to make it before sending the movie back to NetFlix, so… sorry.)
The follow-up disclaimer to these credits informally informs us that Gacy is inspired by events from the strangulating merrymaker’s life, but “Certain names, characters and events have been fictionalized”. In other words, don’t plan on citing it as a source when you write your “The Mass Murderer I Most Admire” report for 7th period History. I get the whole “the names have been changed to protect the innocent” thing, Sgt. Friday, but if you’re just making things up when it comes to the characters and the events, then what’s the fucking point?! The appeal of watching such a flick is supposed to be the true crime aspect, but you’re telling us ahead of time that two very important parts of a true crime story aren’t even true! You may as well have just made a completely fictionalized horror flick about Gacy stalking people as Pogo like all those great anti-biographical exploitation outings we’ve been given about Charles Manson over the decades! If you’re not going whole hog in either direction, you’re presenting would-be viewers with a product that sits in that weird Lifetime Original limbo between realities.
(or maybe it did?)
And given how terrible I am at limbo (my back’s not what it used to be…“back snot”?), it’s as likely as getting an instant STD collection from a bareback juggalo gangbang that this venture won’t end well for me. *rimshot*
Our tale of half-truths (and possible falsehoods) opens in a nameless area of Wisconsin circa 1953, a mere year after the inception of Tommy Bartlett’s famous water show (not to be confused with Billy Barty’s infamous water show…because it involved him R. Kellying on prostitutes dressed as nuns) and 20+ years before that whole giant invading space spiders misunderstanding. The land of cheese and honey (or just more cheese in this case) was home to a young Johnny Gacy (Scott Alan Henry and his 3 first names!) and his father, also named
Bort John (Adam Baldwin, who is not a Baldwin brother). The two take a father and son fishing excursion where John Sr. denotes his dislike for “dirty city air”, tells Junior that he needs to stop spending so much time “in that room of yours”, and intends to teach the awkward, chubby lad how to fish. But, as they’re cooking their catch over the ol’ campfire that night (and after dad’s had one too many of the ol’ brewskies), Senior expresses his disappointment in his boy’s inability to treat the time-honored tradition of the fishening with the respect that luring lower lifeforms into impaling their mouths on metal hooks deserves.
By the way, being the podunk punk that I am, I’m not knocking fishing. I’ve done it many times in my life and enjoyed the empowerment of acquiring my own dinner fresh from the cesspool. But respecting it? That’s another joke entirely. It’s a hobby, not a sacred ritual of adulthood like when Arborian boys have to stick their dick into a wood beast den to prove they’re worthy of buying their own cigarettes.
Dad’s disappointment transmogrifies into outright loathing in the blink of an eye when he gives Lil’ John the ol’ “Bing Crosby I Love You” right in the face! The left hook raises Chunk’s ire enough that he tackles his old man to the ground, laying in a few of the best haymakers his chubby fists can muster before an impromptu stoppage of whimpering. Dad calls him a jag-off who doesn’t have the guts to beat up his own father before sending the boy to bed with a literal kick in the ass. It’s all very reminiscent of that episode of ‘Leave It to Beaver’ where Ward did the same to Wally on their own camping trip before burning the kid with his pipe and telling him “Bitches get stitches”. Nothing like the ol’ ’50s father-son manly bonding!
Speaking of boy ass **cringe**, from this happy family moment we time jump ahead an indeterminate amount of chronological progression later (would a simple time period be too much to ask for, movie?!) when, having served a year-and-a-half sentence in an Iowa reformatory for sodomizing a boy, JWG was paroled and returned to his hometown of Chicago to “try to put his life back together”. Isn’t one of the rules of a parole that you’re not supposed to leave the state or even the county? When exactly was his parole and when did he leave for Chicago? Even when Gacy is sticking as close to the true story as it can, it’s way too obtuse with the details. (After-the-fact note: having gone back and read up on Gacy’s history between the initial conception of this review and its finish, it turns out that the move to Chicago was part of his parole agreement. Would that have been so hard to mention, movie?!) 6 minutes in and already I feel I’d be learning far more from reading the man’s Wikipedia page than I will watching this movie. Fuck, I’m confident that I’d find more info on the movie’s Wikipedia page than what the movie is gonna provide at this point! Where’s my non-FDA approved nerve tonic when I needs it?!
We stop time jumping and join the movie in 1976 where, at his home in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines (which is French for “The Plains”), we’re introduced to adult John Jr. and his family. There’s his mom (Edith Jefferson), his wife Kara (Joleen Lutz), and their two girls Tammy and April (Jessica and Grace Hanamoto respectively), both of whom I’m sure were relieved not to have been born with Y chromosomes once their dad’s after dark antics were exposed. Uggh. That’s a stomach churner of a thought. Uh-oh…here comes that nerve tonic!
After-the-fact note: Though not mentioned in the movie, this is actually John’s second marriage and the girls were from Kara’s prior marriage. His original wife (I don’t know her name, look it up) did birth him two brats, one of which was indeed a male, so it’s a good thing she divorced the portly psycho after that criminal sodomy business. She may have saved their son a lifetime of similar treatment. Small victories.
The first half-hour of the flick introduces us to the type of guy Gacy was when he wasn’t picking up underage male prostitutes and strangling them to death. A real schmoozer, he kept good relations with his community and built himself the reputation of a generous Democrat always looking out for his fellow human being…which he was of course masquerading as, since he was never human, just a sentient pile of sewage and congealed evil in a poorly maintained patchwork skin suit. I’m shocked the trumpublicucks don’t add that to their Abe Lincoln slogans. “We had Abe Lincoln! They had John Wayne Gacy!”. JWG also owned a small construction business staffed entirely by off-the-books teenage boys from around the neighborhood. If you think this is going to lead to terrible things, not unlike putting a dozen sea otters in a pool with a baby seal, then congrats because you just graduated magna cum laude from Nostradamus University.
If our movie is to be believed, the repugnant subhumanoid slime mold wasn’t just a serial killing sodomite, but also a HUGE deadbeat! This bites him in the ass in two instances (the second of which turns out to be complete horseshit for the sake of spicing up the finale), the first of which sees his disgruntled brat pack employee Stevie (Devon Sawa look-a-like Jeremy Lelliot) and a pair of “legitimate business associates” mugging John in a parking lot for overdue wages. During the fracas (and several other times in the movie), Gacy cites a heart condition and threatens his aggressors with murder charges if he croaks as a result of being terrorized into an attack. Despite my presumptions that this was a falsity Sluggy G used to try and guilt his creditors into cooling off, the real deal did have a legit heart condition since childhood. Though the trio made off with whatever paper Fatty had on him, JWG wasn’t about to let such a (deserved) slight stand. So, that night (I presume), he pulled a Copperfield and made Stevie disappear, leaving behind little more than a pile of clothes, a soiled mattress and a bad smell in his wake.
Did someone say “bad smells”? Yes! It was me. I just said it in the last paragraph. Anyway, one of the running themes of the movie is the horrible odor and mysterious scads of cockroaches and maggots coming from the crawlspace under the Gacy family’s charming 3 bedroom ranch home. Ominous for anyone who doesn’t know what’s coming, but it drags ass like a midget with a 40lb lead butt plug in their colon for the rest of us who already know the source of said verminous scourge. Then there’s people like me who are throwing empty bottles at the TV because the cockroaches on screen are just the harmless hissing breed that movieland uses because they’re bigger and thus more hideous to the casual viewer, while the so-called maggots are, in fact, mealworms. I don’t find the worms to be nearly as skin-crawling as actual maggots (fucking Phenomena *shivers*), but maggots also come with the added difficulty of the short maturation period effects folk are left to work with when it comes to genuine fly babies. Meanwhile, mealworms come with a longer shelf-life and are no doubt easier to shoot given their size and color.
Oh, and as today’s justification for The Tomb’s government sponsored education grant, I have a related lesson with which to give thine noggins a floggin’ – despite their name, mealworms are not worms! They are instead larva that will go pupa and finally turn beetle if you don’t just shove ’em down your pet iguana Tyrone’s throat. The name of this final evolution? The mealworm beetle. In other words, the larva is so more well known than its final form that the beetle is named after it! By Pokemon terms, that would be like calling a Beedrill a Weedle Beetle…which sounds like one of those names a preschool teacher would ask their students to use when referencing penises, because anatomical terminology is too egregiously upsetting for puritan pantywastes to handling hearing out of the mealy mouths of their otherwise angelic offspring.
And it’s this piss-poor empowering of “bad words” through their introduction as forbidden fruit that results in entire generations of adults like myself whose casual conversing comes off like a Tourette’s patient that learned English by watching Cheech & Chong movies and George Carlin’s HBO specials to make up for the 16 or so years of vocabulary policing by otherwise proud parents. Shit piss fuck cunt cocksucker motherfucker tits!
Gacy’s taste for ‘Tiger Beat’ meat was probably just due to him being a middle-aged, out-of-shape guy sexualizing the younger generation as a way to make himself feel younger or abuse both the power differential he held over them and their naivete in the ways of the adult world. The physical assaults and murder stuff were clearly contributed to his agonized upbringing, illustrated in the otherwise pointless opening. In case you missed that little lesson in Cinema Psychology 101, worry not as we’re reminded of it later when JWG hears his fist happy father’s insults in his head while our killer attempts to cave in his employee Dave (Kenneth Swartz)’s skull with a hammer! Sleazy (the worst Smurf) “snaps out of it” when the kid puts up enough of a fight to fend Fatso off, leaving John apologizing profusely while trying to excuse the attack as an “accident”. He helps bandage Davy’s ruptured dome as the boy whimpers like a injured animal (a genuinely well acted scene from Swartz, I must say) before warning him not to tell anyone about “them” because it’ll just end badly for both parties. “Them”? What do giant radioactive ants have to do with this? Whatever. Gacy also buys Dave’s silence before sending him home, having the nerve to call after him with “And don’t be late tomorrow”!? Holy Skipper double-dipper! I’m so flabbergasted by that that I just said “Holy Skipper double-dipper”.
While we know where this train wreck is destined to derail, Kara’s still in the suspicions phase when she finds several pairs of jeans far too small for John stuffed away in a dresser drawer (why would he keep their pants!?), then furthers said suspiciousnesses when she uncovers her hubby’s secret stash of fag mags (written for the rhyme, not out of malice) and handcuffs in the garage. She focuses her attention on the cuffs, no doubt subconsciously ignoring the MASTADONIC DILDO sitting adjacent to them in the drawer! At least now she knew why John never needed Ex-lax despite their constant ingestion of meat.
Sadly, a lot of gay men (Gacy only professed to being bisexual in real life) had to marry and procreate to beard over their true faces in the '70s, so this wasn't uncommon. Just look at Mike Brady. The poor guy married, had 3 boys, then had to remarry when his first wife died just to keep up the deception! Look it up!
As if her findings weren’t bad enough for an ignorant/in denial wife to unveil, Kara’s discovery just so happened to fall on Mothers Day, dumping a whole bag of salt on the seething, gaping, metaphorical wound now carved into her soul. Despite his declaration of “I’m not! You know I hate homos!”, rather than play along with it like Carol Brady and just accepting her spouse’s penchant for boy bumming, Kara takes the girls and moves out…but not before calling him a “jag-off”. Was that really an insult used in those days?! I thought it was an invention of the ’90s, not a popular phrase of the ’50s and ’70s. It feels so out of place, like an Amish buggy lined up at the Arby’s drive-thru.
Having revealed John’s secret a mere 36 minutes into the runtime, the movie makes no further efforts to hide what’s happening in the crawlspace and transitions from thriller to slasher faster than Flyboy got his blueface on in Dawn of the Dead. Hell, the very next scene following the girls’ exodus is just John dragging a young man’s bloodied body down there to dispose of! Can you imagine how much of a pain in the ass it must’ve been for Tubby to bury all of those bodies down there over the years? Shallow graves or not, digging holes in such cramped quarters had to be a bitch the size of Fenrir’s mom! I would’ve been relieved to have gotten caught just so I’d never have to dig another hole again for the rest of my inevitably short post-conviction life! Then again, knowing my luck I’d end up on a chain gang ironically digging ditches for whatever time I had left on death row. You could call me Sasha Grey, because one way or another I’d be getting fucked.
With spare space in his domicile now, John invites his handsome young employee Tom (Charlie Weber) to move in with him, given the boy’s troubles at home, constantly arguing with his parents as young adults are known to do. The fact that he wants to engage in premarital intercourse with his girlfriend Gretchen (Allison Lange) in a bed for once rather than his El Camino (which was a VW punch bug earlier…) also plays heavily into his decision, much to said gal’s chagrin given the rumors she’s heard about Creeper John. Not to be confused with Trapper John, who somehow mutated from Wayne Rogers into Parnell Roberts during his return flight home from Korea. War changes every man. Sometimes it even changes them into an entirely different man!
Were Tom smart, he’d just get himself a futon mattress for the back of that car-truck hybrid beast of his and drive his lady to Penetration Station in the Kmart parking lot under the stars every night! Chicks dig stars…or is that scars? Meh, let’s play it safe and say nothing gets the ovaries boiling (that’s what happens when women get horny, right?) like getting pounded in the back of an El Camino under the stars by a guy covered head-to-toe in a gnarled topographical map of scar tissue that makes Freddy Krueger look like an after photo from a Proactiv® commercial. Spanish. Fly.
With no one else around to hide his true nature from (Momma’s on a short trip to Arkansas), John briefly takes on another resident – prostiteen Roger (Joe Sikora), whose presence in the place isn’t voluntary. Whether Rog escapes or is let go is unclear, as we simply get a brief scene of him badly bruised, plumber’s crack in full effect, and violently coughing in a public park while JWG drives around with a menacing look on his mug. (After-the-fact note: the real life counterpart he’s based on was dropped off at a park by the actual Gacy, released for no clear reason. Maybe John just didn’t feel like having to dig another fucking hole for another of his fucking holes…blech.) Roger shows up again later looking for JWG, but unable to find him takes his frustrations out on the elderly mother, yelling at her about how her son’s a rapist animal. She tells him to fuck off, so Rog instead goes to the police to take his revenge nice and legal like.
There comes a point in everyone’s life where they look at themselves in the mirror and ask “Why didn’t I listen to my parents?”.
Mothers, your children are always capable of acts of horror the likes of which your misfiring biased brains will never conceive. When someone tells you your spawn is a sadistic sodomizer of unwilling abductees, do not brush it off as nonsense! Save yourself a possible accomplice accusation and get 911 on the fucking phone!
More on that later, though, because just when I was convinced that we’d never get an appearance by our subject’s coulrophobia triggering alter ego, right around the 50min mark I’m proven wrong! When a kid shows up to sell his car to the Nightmare of the Des Plaines (which is still French for “The Plains”) Boys’ Club, he interrupts the madman in full Pogo regalia! After the test drive, Gacy of course drowns the lad in his bathtub while Mother snores it up in her recliner. Things get even more grimly comical when John goes so far as to leave the kid’s corpse on their kitchen floor while going out to address other matters as mom continues to sleep through the entire scene! Did Adam Sandler produce this under a pseudonym?!
As much as you’d think going on a test drive around the local locale while dressed like a clown would be a poor idea when you plan on turning the kid you’re with into the local milk carton manufacturer’s newest star, such strange behavior is in accordance with the casual craziness Gacy has adopted since Kara’s exit. This reckless state of mind is only embiggened by the obese ogre’s 100% success rate in the field of snatch & stash! Even after he sells the now stolen car to one of his employees and said dumbass gets caught by the fuzz following a gas-and-dash incident, the dots continue to go unconnected! Crap like this must be why we never got a ‘CSI: Chicago’, because it’d take them 6 episodes to solve one case!
After-the-fact note: though much of the prior paragraph matches up to the truth, Gacy was never dressed as Pogo during any of his nightmarish acts. Also, the part about the stolen car being collected by the police is true, but the real cops were able to match the plates to those of the missing car, rather than the “two boats passing in the night” scene we get between the officers working the separate cases for the sake of audience tension.
JWG’s overconfidence continues when he sends a pair of his boys into the ‘space to dig trenches for laying down pipe. Not an innuendo, as they actually did do the digging despite disagreeing with the stomach churning unsanitary conditions, but said holes weren’t for plumbing purposes, rather they were to save John the effort of digging future graves himself. And he trusted these idiots to stay within the assigned parameters and not accidentally unearth some festering dude ho’s coagulating cadaver. Fuck’s sake. Possibly emboldened by his continued success at hiding his extracurricular hobby from the world at large, John plies Tom with bong loads and home movies in an effort to finally make his move. Not unlike my efforts to do the same with a waitress I worked with back in high school, Tom’s reaction is less than accommodating to John’s intentions. However, whereas Kristina simply rejected my efforts to give her my virginity before I even had the chance to awkwardly attempt to initiate, Tom freaks out when he realizes they’re watching gay porn and threatens to fuck his boss up in a wholesale manner not in line with what the grimy ol’ perv was hoping for. You can almost pinpoint the exact moment John’s heart breaks. So much for true love.
Instead of doing the sensible thing and getting the fuck outta Dodge after the incident, Tom continues to live in the manbomination's extra room. Hey, everybody's first apartment is gonna have some problems. You just suffer through them knowing that sometime in the future you'll be able to look back on it and laugh! Besides, it builds character. And good luck finding another place for that price that comes with access to a pool table and a room full of not-at-all-horrific clown paintings! Clearly not one to pass up a deal just because his landlord wants to forcibly insert objects into his asshole, Tom instead exercises caution and takes to sleeping with a cudgel. He also probably kept an eye on the Pennysaver to see if any of the local hardware stores were having a sale on chastity belts. Good luck, man. Those things only go on sale maybe twice a year!
John tries to pass off his pass making as a “test” to see if Tom was deserving of a promotion, which the hippie doesn’t buy but plays along with anyway until he can figure out how to proceed. You can’t just up and leave a job and break your lease without having contingencies lined up! As for Gacy, his deteriorating sanity contributes heavily to his inevitable downfall. Remember how he not only let Roger live but even dumped him off at a fucking public park in broad daylight? Well, Roger’s accusations don’t fall on deaf ears, because two plainclothes dicks establish a stakeout outside the fat man’s front door. The pair attempted to search the place, but without a warrant they’re shit outta luck, so constant surveillance verging on harassment in the hopes of catching him red-handed is the soup du jour! Whether the aforementioned “red” is blood or clown paint (or Manhattan clam chowder) isn’t clear.
Despite Starsky and Hutch car camping in his driveway, JWG’s severe psychosis STILL drives him to go out and sneak a mustache victim (in that it happens right under their noses) back into the house! His obsession with Tom and dodging the fuzz has been weighing heavy on the big lug’s mind though, so you can understand John’s mistake when he discovers there’s no more space in his ‘space for this latest notch on his DIY pillory. Always the improviser, he instead tosses the boy in his trunk, slips past the cops again and disposes of the corpse in the river under cover of a clear, sunny afternoon. Sweet chipotle cheese logs, this guy must’ve been born with a massive four-leaf clover shaped birthmark on his ass!
Unintentional Leprechaun reference/joke for those with geekcyclopedic knowledge.
Knowing that it’s only a matter of time until even his box of Lucky Charms goes stale, Gacy gives in to the crushing anxiety and, verging on a total breakdown, professes his laundry list of sins to his friend and fellow fried food aficionado Hal (played by professional Coleman Francis impersonator, Tom Waldman) and shares his plans to take an extended vacation to Belgium, where he will likely binge himself to death on Belgian Burgers…which is just a fist-sized lump of partially melted decadent chocolate between two square waffles…and is also something I just made up…but would now willingly trade one year of my lifespan for.
Hal doesn’t report any of this impromptu confessional to the police though, since the rabbit’s foot on Gacy’s keychain must have had a little juice left in it (rabbit juice? Nasty.), so John just heads home. There his ever increasingly lubricated (ewwww) grip on his own sanity leads to hearing voices and having flashbacks to the earlier days of his dirty deeds. When Tommy gives notice that he’s moving out to the west coast to “check things out”, John decides this is his last chance to take his romantic interest and would-be clowning sidekick to the bone zone against his will. He does so by betting the young lad $100 he can’t pull off Pogo’s “have your hands cuffed behind your back and Houdini out of them” trick. Tommy, who could always use another $100 for gas, grass and ass on his upcoming road trip, takes the challenge, discovering too late that the trick only works if you have the keys. Mwomp mwomp! Now, nobody deserves to be raped (well, except for rapists, dictators and Uwe Boll), but it’s also my mantra that stupidity should be punished, so…I’m not sure how to feel about this scenario.
Thomas must have a whole roll of lucky pennies in his pocket (or he’s just happy to see us) though, because he can thank his fortunate orifices (“orifi”?) that a guy named Ray (Rick Dean), to whom Gacy is indebted, chooses this of all moments to rampage onto the scene from nowhere like the proverbial t-rex teleported into a window warehouse (it’s an ancient Tibetan proverb that you’ve probably never heard of)! Interrupting Ray coldcocks (phrasing!) both John and Tommy without hesitation before emptying butterball’s wallet and leaving like an angry fart into the night.
After-the-fact note: If you think this timing reeks of being a little too convenient to be faithful to the actual events of our reality, then good for you because your bullshit detector is up to code. This is the “Hollywood” ending. The final nail in Gacy’s clown-painted penis was far less action packed god-in-the-machine chicanery and far more ‘Dateline’ procedural.
It turns out John can’t take a punch to save his life (literally in this case), while Tom and his sick denim jacket recover with a quickness and escape out the front door into the arms of the pork rinds awaiting outside. You can imagine where the story ends from there…but just in case you can’t, it involves lots of exhumed bodies and an overweight human horror show sitting in a jail cell demanding to see his lawyer. Just like the time I paid $60 to see a live performance of ‘God of Carnage’, only to discover that the title was a lie and the box office wouldn’t honor my demand for a refund!
According to the movie’s epilogue, the estimations of John Wayne Gacy’s gigolo fixation led to him “picking up” over 2000 men (most lured into his car with the flashing of a Chicago PD badge by his alias, “Detective Hanley”), making him the Wilt Chamberlain of teen boy rapist-murders. Only, you know, in this case the nickname of “The Stilt” would likely refer to an actual stilt JWC would’ve forced into his captives’ anuses. Oh Hel, here comes the rest of that tonic!
Not all of Gacy's conquests over the duration of his 6 year spree were killed, clearly, but 29 of those who were were exhumed from the now infamous crawlspace with an additional 4 fished out of the Des Plaines River, which is French for “The The Plains River”. On May 10th, 1994 (hey, just 5 days after my 13th birthday!) Gacy got the prick of death, with his last words reportedly being “Kiss my ass!”. As much of an irredeemable monster as he was, you gotta admit those are some pretty hardcore last words to go out on.
Say what you will about Gacy, he’s still not the worst human being to be attached to the name “John Wayne”! At least he never wore brown face to play Genghis Khan in a movie that resulted in the cancer deaths of over 40 cast and crew members, nor did he participate in a segment on WWF television wherein he saved an adulterer from phallic dismemberment by a gang of broad, evil, Japanese stereotypes! Then again, Gacy did rape and murder a lot of teenage boys, so…shit. Okay, okay, I guess he was the worst John Wayne. Definitely more deserving of getting his dangler hacked off by his wife, that’s for sure.
Though I'm still not a fan of the “some of it's real, some of it ain't” motif, what we get is understandably dramatized “movie of the week” style to help sell the flick to a broader audience. I actually did check out the insidious adventures of the Des Plaines butt plunderer after my first viewing of Gacy and, compared to the actual events, I can see why punching the story up a bit was preferable. It ignores certain important aspects of JWG’s upbringing, most notably his repeated molestation at the hands (literally) of a family friend and his unwillingness to tell his parents for fear that John Sr.’s abusive tendencies would direct the blame at him. This could have been left out intentionally so as not to risk the audience getting too sympathetic with our eponymous antagonist. There’s also zero mention of Gacy’s first marriage and children, nor the explanation that the daughters of his second marriage were actually stepdaughters from Kara’s prior nuptials, which I’m presuming to be for the sake of preserving more of the runtime for what the viewers really came for – murders!
Unfortunately, none of this excuses the oft times sloppy edits and incoherent moments that are never explained, many of which were covered in the review. If you are going to watch it for yourself (or you have already and have some of the same questions I did), you should look into the real story yourself, provided you’re inured enough to the horrors of reality to stomach it…which is the same warning I give to anyone who asks me if I can recommend a Dario Argento movie from the last 20 years.
There’s not a lot to talk about in terms of the movie’s style. Saunders didn’t seem to know if he was going for a suspenseful thriller or a cookie cutter slasher, and I’m genuinely surprised not to have seen a single thrown cat jump scare scene. Some moments come off as subtly unnerving, but others are just simple “okay, so he’s just gonna kill this guy next, right?” kill scenes, overly peppered with a lazy reliance on repeated shots of clown paraphernalia and writhing insects. The first half-hour held mild tension, but pulled a complete about-face for the remainder, spending the rest of the flick more worried about upping the body count than manipulating the viewers’ emotions. Not that there’s anything wrong with a sizable body count, mind you, but this just adds fuel to the “reality versus exaggeration” conflict that’s been the running theme for this entire episode!
Speaking of exaggeration, you can make a convincing argument that Gacy is an exploitation movie. Not in the traditional sense of swathes of sex and violence and vulgar acts strewn across the screen, but in that its DVD cover exploits would-be buyers. Despite the menacing Pogo image advertised, the single appearance by Gacy’s face painted alter-ego doesn’t jive with his lack of prominence in the feature itself! You know those pictures on the menus at fast food places that include the accompanying disclaimer of “picture may not represent actual food”? They need one of those disclaimers asterisked to the bottom of this DVD. Do your job, MPAA! At least HBO’s JWC movie, To Catch a Killer, gave us exactly what its VHS box promised – big ol’ Brian Dennehy! Well, with the exception of the Danish release, which seemingly promised us “Attack of the Fifty Foot B-Actor” Dennehy gazing somberly at Matthew Broderick’s silhouette from the Project X (1987) poster.
In conclusion, Gacy suffers from something of an identity crisis. I do have to admit that the cast helps make it an easier watch, as they’re all perfectly competent and deserving of whatever presumably minor paychecks they cashed for their work. Holton gets special mention for his work as the spiritual Ebola that is JWG, bouncing back and forth between a psychopath whose public face garners him the respect of his community and the trust of his victims, while his true face fosters fear and discomfort upon us in equal parts, until his mental breakdown almost plants a seed of minute pity for the guy. It’s an overlooked role that the guy deserves more credit for, but will never dig him out of his infamy as Chubby from the Teen Wolf movies or the fat jag-off who stole Pee Wee Herman’s bicycle.
You know who would make for a great Gacy, should he ever accept an offer to play the most hated clown not named “Pennywise”? John Goodman. The man’s got so much range and a physique that’s both comical and intimidating, he’d be perfect for the part! Well, he would have been, say 20 years ago. If I find an alternate dimension where this was a thing that happened, I’ll let everyone know.
As a final piece of FYI trivia, did you know that the beverage John Wayne Gacy chose as part of his last meal was a Diet Coke? Just another reason I’m a proud Pepsi drinker!
“Son, your mother and I have been having a lot of problems as of late, and we agree that it’s all your fault. So, rather than get divorced, I’ve brought you out here to kill you and bury you in a shallow grave. Look at it this way – at least now you won’t have to deal with things like school bullies or impotence!”
This is where the neighborhood parents hold their weekly Toddler Fight Club meetings. The first rule of Toddler Fight Club? Always bet on the one who’s clearly a midget pretending to be a child, but no one says anything because they don’t know what to call him without being called racists.
“Yeah, I may just be a Devon Sawa look-a-like, but you know what I’m not? The asshole who thought SLC Punk 2 was a thing the world needed!”
So this is what it’s like when world’s collide. (You know… cuz they’re both big and round… like planets… Well, it was this or a sumo wrestling joke that I couldn’t concoct a punchline for!)
“Oh come on, mister! When I said I could suck a dick for a Shasta right now, that doesn’t count as a verbal contract!”
Mr. and Mrs. Roeper star in The Thing with Two-Heads Part 2: Two’s Company!
Anubis ProTip #561: just because Mitchum claims to be “So effective you can skip a day.”, it doesn’t mean you should.
“Handcuffs?! I’ve been trying to get John to experiment with BDSM for 15 years and he always tells me it’s for perverts and weirdos!”
Someone needs to tell John that gasoline soaked rags are not a proper form of antiseptic.
“You and me are gonna have a real good… What the fuck? Do you have LICE!? Gross! Get the hell out of my rape room before you contaminate the whole house, you scumbag!”
Yeah, that was my reaction leaving the theater after I paid to see The Phantom Menace on opening night. All that time hunting limited edition Pepsi cans for nothing.
I used to dress like that to answer the door whenever the Witnesses came by hawking ”Watchtower”. It got to be too much effort though, so I switched to nothing but a hockey mask and a pair of tighty-whities with the Bat Signal Sharpied onto the front. That’s all I’m legally allowed to say about it, so let’s move on.
Some people take their apple bobbing training way too seriously!
Trapped in a closet? Where’s R. Kelly when you need him!? Oh… that’s right… eww.
If Michael Berryman and Paul Scheer had a baby… and kicked it down some stairs.
Gacy used to be one of those weirdos who wears multiple watches at once, but had to stop because he had *cue the music* too much time on his haaaands!
(That one was for you, Tommy Shaw.)
Gacy auditions to be the next in the long line of recent Colonel Sanders actors. His motivation for this scene? “Pretend you’re Marv Albert and the chicken wing is a succulent prostitute!”
Ever since he saw The Tooth Fairy, Tommy’s been unable to sleep without a baseball bat by his side.
I’m just really not enjoying The Asylum’s latest mockbuster, The Large Balooski. I mean, it’s been 20 years so… why?
Anubis will return next time in
“The West Wing: Japan”
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