Saturday, October 20, 2007


(2003) ***1/2

Throughout his childhood, John Wayne Gacy was beaten often by his alcoholic father. Gacy Jr. grew up a repressed homosexual who loudly proclaimed a loathing for gays even after having served 18 months for sexual molestation of a 15 year old boy. One might be led to wonder how, after his sentence, he was able to have such easy, unsupervised access to the boys he killed. As portrayed in Gacy, he was able to coast for an awfully long time on simple, Archie Bunkeresque charm.
He was a popular man. He was a successful local business owner and a prominent supporter of the Democratic party (he was once photographed with First Lady Rosalynn Carter, an "S" pin on his lapel indicating that the Secret Service had granted him high-level security clearance). He threw large neighborhood parties and dressed up like a clown for charity events at local hospitals.
Mark Holton plays Gacy as a man who switches gears easily. When provoked, his rage momentarily emerges. He makes allusions to mafia ties and the ability to have people rubbed out -- People "threaten" to kill each other every day. "Oye, I'll kill ya," say irritated Jewish mothers everywhere; kind of horrifying to consider the guy that actually means it -- Then as smoothly as it surfaced, that barely-checked fury submerges again under that lovable, gruff charm.
At worst, the people he encounters consider him someone to occasionally watch your step around. Even when he's stopped in the middle of committing crimes, he can muster that tone. It's sort of a, "Whaaat? I'm doin' the thing. Wassamatta with you?" sort of tone, but made all the more convincing because it's articulate.
When we first see Gacy as an adult, he's in the crawlspace beneath his house, burying a victim, several plots already laid out --- he buried 29 people beneath his house and killed 4 more, and at this point in the story, he's pretty far along in that body count. It's early enough though that he's still completely in control of his public face.
Soon after, he begins his decline, parallel with the increasingly noxious stench radiating from under his house. It's an unrelentingly sour smell and his neighbors complain bitterly about it. His daughters are horrified when one day, three large roaches skitter out of their bathroom sink.
Underneath the house, it's much worse. The soil under the Gacy home is a crawling marsh of maggots and beetles. Gacy refuses offers of assistance and tries to handle the problem by himself. He's able to cover up a few new murders under the cover story of having to lay down lime in the crawlspace.
Compounding Gacy's problems, he's running out of room. He's now having to dump his fresh kills offsite. As his crawlspace nears capacity, he begins to lose his grip. He drinks more, his eyes darken, he appears sweaty and disheveled when he goes out in public. He knows the end is coming soon and it's taking him apart rapidly. In one touching scene, he approaches an old friend with whom we've seen Gacy trade barbs on several occasions. This, Gacy knows, will be their last exchange. With a lump in his throat, he admits everything. Unlike with a similar scene in Ed Gein though, his friend doesn't think for a moment Gacy is kidding.
And at this point, why not? There's no turning back for Gacy. Everyone notices the smell, including the cops. Everyone notices the disappearances, everyone notices his eroding state of health -- everyone except for his mom although she's living under the same roof the entire time.
I've read one viewer review on IMDb that complains that Gacy is far from an accurate portrayal of the true events of Gacy's life. But beyond its departures from the truth, it's a sensitively scripted and acted film. It gets an extra half-star for all those great, icky shots of Gacy's maggot farm.


Whirlygirl said...

This sounds interesting. I will have to check this out sometime. How graphic is the maggot farm?

I'mnotMarcbutmyboyfriendis said...

lots and lots of maggots. that's a fun word. maggot maggot maggot.