Ellen Carter is an award-winning True Crime novelist whose specialty is in her ability to get her subjects, serial killers, to reveal the motivations behind their murderous tendencies. She unwittingly leases out a room in her home to the nondescript, polite gentleman Leslie Steckler who just happens to have a dark secret. Mr. Steckler is the White Angel, the notorious British serial killer, so named for his method of choosing his victims, and he knows that Ellen has a dark secret of her own.
REVIEW:Interview with a Serial Killer (re-release 2011)
Directed by Chris Jones
Produced by Genevieve Jolliffe
Starring: Peter Firth, Harriet Robinson, Don Henderson
Interview with a Serial Killer was originally released under the title âWhite Angelâ in 1993 and is directed and produced by the same team that brought us âUrban Ghost Storyâ (1998). While I donât know what precipitated itâs re-release this year or the change in title I am certainly glad they did. It was a pleasant surprise to watch a movie with so many elements of good film making.
First off, no movie can survive without a good story thatâs driven by interesting characters and Interview with a Serial Killer has both. The story boils down to a cat and mouse game in which you are never quite sure who has the upper hand. Indeed, both of the principals juxtapose this role throughout the story, making it all the more interesting to watch unfold. Itâs exciting to watch a movie and not be able to discern how the story will play out, even when itâs apparent that it wonât end happily for anyone. Furthermore, the character interaction must be believable, especially in the extraordinary circumstance in which the characters found themselves, and this screenplay was written in such a way that nothing between the two felt forced or out of place. In fact, the honesty of their human nature is what made the conversations between the two compelling.
Of course, the best writing in the world remains on paper until itâs brought to life by good performances, and, thankfully, Interview has that as well. Though itâs not a groundbreaking performance by any means, Harriet Robinsonâs portrayal of a woman scarred by an abusive relationship and quietly determined to not be bullied ever again is believable. Don Henderson (âAdventures of Baron Munchausenâ 1988) is perfect as the grizzled Scotland Yard detective who for 3 years has been persistently obeying his intuition which is relentlessly telling him something doesnât add up with Ellenâs story. But the rock star in this movie is Peter Firth (âAmistadâ, 1997, âHunt for Red Octoberâ, 1990). Firth is outstanding as Leslie Steckler, the serial killer known as the White Angel. He can go from shy and introverted to fierce and menacing with a glance and does so with a subtlety thatâs downright creepy. It reminded me, though not as cerebral or sinister, of Hannibal Lecktor (and not Anthony Hopkinsâ Lecktor, but Brian Coxâs Lecktor, from âManhunterâ, 1986, which was the performance I feel gave Sir Hopkins his inspiration for the now iconic character he playedâŚbut thatâs another columnâŚ). Firthâs portrayal is of Leslie Steckler first, murderer second, and he makes distinguishing that line and then toeing it look easy.
The production value is also great, at least next to the films Iâve reviewed lately. The editing in particular I thought was done with care and I appreciated it. It helped keep the film moving along at a nice pace; it never felt rushed nor did it lag in spots. Of special note is the Sony Hi8 footage interspersed throughout the film, giving us a first-person account of Stecklerâs exploits. And whatâs really effective about these moments is not what weâre shown but rather what weâre not shown, as all the grisly moments occur off camera. What weâre left with, throughout the entire film in fact, is the aftermath of these events which, even though I love me some gory carnage, is a refreshing change.
This movie isnât for everyone. If you want intestines spewing across the screen, take a left down Laid to Rest Ave. If youâre looking for a creature feature, take a right down Jeepers Creepers Lane. But if youâre looking for an âold-schoolâ (it is 18 years old, after all) stylish, briskly paced, well-crafted thriller, look no further than Interview with a Serial Killer. It may not be a keeper for some but that doesnât mean itâs not worth your time.