Serial Killers in Film

John Wayne Gacy: Analysis

*Spoiler warning for both films

Gacy (2003)

While this film was far from enjoyable or interesting, I was surprised by how much accuracy they had with some of the scenes in this film. After reading many reviews, mostly talking about how terrible the film was and how much they had butchered Gacys true story, I expected most of the film to just be inaccurate and unbearable. While this is not something I will watch again, or recommend to a friend, it was not totally unwatchable and I think the ratings reflect the final product accurately.

As far as the similarities go with this film, there is not much that needs to be said, as the previous page is very straight forward, however I would like to clarify a few of the points.  For one Gacy invited a young boy named Tom to live with him, while there was no one named Tom who lived with Gacy at any time; there was a few boys who did stay with Gacy-Tom, however, does not seem to be based off of any of these boys. Gacy is shown towards the beginning of the film picking up a young prostitute and the film suggests Gacy rapes him, Gacy let this prostitute go; while Gacy did let many prostitutes go, sparing their lives, he only did this towards the end of his killings. There is a scene where a young boy steals gas from a gas station in the car that Gacy sold him, the car that Gacy acquired after killing its owner. This did happen, however in real life the young man who stole gas from a gas station was actually Gacys right hand man, Rossi, who happened to be living with Gacy at the time. In the film Gacy does mention that he franchised a chicken restaurant, this is partly true, Gacy managed three KFCs in Iowa prior to moving to Chicago.
The films goal was definitely to make money and entertain, rather than tell a true depiction of Gacys crimes, so the differences in this film are numerous. First of all, we see that there are bugs crawling all around Gacys home, in his crawl space, and even up the pipes to his bathroom; no evidence suggests that the bodies Gacy buried under his home caused Gacy to have an irreversible maggot and roach problem. The imagery of the bugs is used quite a lot throughout the film, obviously very dramatized. Throughout this film Gacy is depicted as a bit of a jerk, he was not well liked by the community, he owed many people lots of money, he treated his construction workers poorly, etc. Gacy is actually well known to have been liked by the community and while evidence suggests that Gacy may have owed his third victim a small sum of cash, there is no proof that Gacy owed a lot of people money, and he was definitely not jumped or beaten up by anyone that he owed cash to. Gacy seems to be known throughout the community as someone who likes boys, he is often called many homophobic slurs throughout the film. While Gacy did like boys, the only person who knew Gacy liked men was his ex-wife. In the film Gacy performed many of his killings while his wife and two step daughters lived in the house with him, and he performed all of the killings while his mother was still living with him. This is extremely falsified, Gacys mother moved out of his house prior to Gacys marriage to his second wife, and Gacy only killed 2-3 boys while his wife and two stepdaughters lived with him, each time they were out of town. This film focused a lot on Gacys crawlspace, Gacy had a friend check it out to see if he could help with the horrible smell, Gacys crawl space begins leaking and reeking up the pissed neighbors garden, pest control is called to take care of Gacys bug problem due to the bodies in the crawl space, and even officers smell it outside. While we know there was a smell emitting from Gacys crawlspace, it was not this noticeable. The only time it was noticed was when a cop used Gacys restroom and smelled something coming from the vents, this was during the winter time when the heater was being used, so the smell was most likely more noticeable than when the police had actually been there previously. Officers came to Gacys home to ask about the disappearance of a young boy named Stevie, this did not happen in real life, as they did not investigate Gacy until information was secured about Robert Piest, Gacys last victim. Gacys wife in the film found drawers full of young boys pants, male porn magazines, handcuffs, and a dildo, she confronted Gacy, took her girls and left. While Gacys second wife did find porn magazines, she did not know about anything else in the house and she left Gacy after some time and it was a mutual consent divorce. Gacy is depicted in the film as hearing voices, very schizoid-esque; during Gacys trial his lawyers tried to get him declared insane, but doctors found no evidence of this, so them portraying Gacy this way plays into a falsified account of the way he was. In the film, two men try to search Gacys home without a warrant, after the young prostitute Gacy let go confided in them, Gacy refuses to let the men in, so the men camp out outside of Gacys home on the front lawn. While I understand that the filmmakers were trying to hint at these two men being the cops who had Gacy under surveillance, they were not actually cops in the film, thus their redneck agenda only came off as a dramatized account. Gacy is caught trying to escape his home at night via car after a young man runs out of his house tied up, however in real life Gacy was pulled over and arrested while police searched his home. The film states that it is estimated Gacy picked up over 2,000 men, but I have not seen this information in any of the research I have done.
As you can see, some of the true life events were kept in this film, but for the most part huge chunks of the story, very important ones at that, were dramatized and/or fictionalized in order to make the film and the story more appealing to the audience. In my opinion, films that stay true to stories and maybe dramatize a little bit here and there, are way better than films that change the stories because they think it will benefit their wallets.

To Catch a Killer (1992)

This film was not only far more entertaining than Gacy, but it was also infinitely more accurate than Gacy even tried to be. I really enjoyed watching this film, although it is technically a two part series and over three hours long, it kept my attention the entire time and it is definitely something that I would recommend to other people. The reviews for this film were mostly positive, though there were still quite a few that said they did not enjoy it. I do wish that Rotten Tomatoes had critic reviews on this film, so I could see what they thought. Nonetheless, in my opinion the reviews and scores for this film once again accurately depict the product.

As I am sure you noticed from looking at the previous page, the list of similarities to the true crime and film is a lot longer than the list of differences. The directors and writers portrayed what seems to be a very accurate portrayal of Gacys life and crimes. I am going to go over a few of the similarities, to once again clarify some things. This film focuses on the detectives and the investigation rather than on Gacy himself, as police did not start investigating Gacy until information came out on his last victim, this is where the film begins. In the film police find out that a young boy, whose class ring they found in Gacys home, also owned a red Honda hatchback that now belonged to Gacys right hand man Koslo. This young boy was based off of John Szyc, who visited Gacys home on the pretext of selling his Plymouth Satellite. He was killed and Gacy kept his ring and sold his car to Rossi, who was living and working with Gacy at the time. There is a scene in the film where a police dog gets in the death position, pointing towards the trunk of Gacys car, in reality the dog did get in the death position, but he actually laid in the passenger seat of the car mourning. Throughout the film there are two officers following Gacy around and in one scene, they convince Gacy to let them in for a drink, so that they could get the serial number of a TV in Gacys home. In reality, while Gacy did have two officers following him around, the officers did not need to convince Gacy to let them in his home, as Gacy frequently invited the officers in for drinks and pool. We see a few scenes throughout the film where officers interrogate Gacys right hand man Koslo, this is not exactly accurate as real life Rossi only came into the police station once. Rossi had previously called the station to inform them that he spread ten bags of lime under Gacys crawlspace, when Rossi came in for the polygraph test he became very uneasy with specific questions about Gacys last victim, Piest. Rossi admits that Gacy could have buried bodies in the crawlspace and that he did sometimes dig trenches for Gacy. While most of this information was presented pretty accurately, it was very much dramatized. Towards the end of the film the police go on a high speed chase with Gacy and then arrest him for possession of illegal substances, as he handed opioids to Koslo, and they wanted to keep Gacy from getting to the airport. This is mostly true, while police did chase him and arrest him for possession of illegal substances, it was only after Gacy handed a bag of weed to a gas station attendant and the police actually pulled him over and arrested him because they thought he was going to commit suicide, so they wanted to prevent that from happening. The information in the film about where they found Gacys victims is mostly true, however, they did not mention that one of the bodies was found in a pit in the backyard months after the initial bodies were found.
As far as the differences go, there is definitely not as much to say as there was for Gacy, but the film did have some inaccuracies, nonetheless. First of all, the film shows Gacy tricking the cops who are following him so that he could dump Chris’ (Robert Piest) body into the Des Plaines River; this did not happen, Gacy dumped the body before the police started investigating him. The film shows Gacy attending his father’s funeral, in reality Gacys father died while he was serving time in an Iowa state prison. In the film Koslo admits to seeing Gacy hit on young boys and told the police Gacy had confided in him about being bisexual, this is not true, as the only person who knew Gacy had interest in men was his second ex-wife. There is a scene in the film where the detective calls the chief of police in Waterloo, Iowa, where Gacy served time, to find out more information on his conviction, the research I have done suggests this phone call never happened. There is a psychic that the police in the film use to help with the case, in real life the police never talked to any psychic about Gacys investigation, and this was the one thing in this film that I found to be extremely dramatized. They mention at the end of the film that the protocol they used to investigate and convict Gacy is now the protocol that is used for serial killer cases around the United Sates, while this does not sound extremely far off I did research this and could not find any information proving this to be accurate.
As far as this film goes, you can see that most of the information and scenes depicted where not falsified accounts. This film did an extremely well done job of keeping the accuracy of Gacys crimes, while creating a compelling and totally watchable film. As I said before, I would recommend this to others, but do keep in mind you need to set aside a good 3-4 hours to watch everything. This film did a far better job than Gacy and I completely agree with the rating on IMDB that states this film was very obviously made as a historical document, rather than to just purely make a profit.

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