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Berdella - Northeast Film Group Print E-mail
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Written by Ray Casta   
Thursday, 24 March 2011
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Berdella DVD Artwork on Severed Cinema

Directed by: William Taft, Paul South
Written by: William Taft
Produced by: William Taft, Paul South
Cinematography by: Rocky Varela
Editing by: Paul South
Music by: Topp Boam (Original Score), Noah Young
Cast: Seth Correa, Steve Williams, Stephen Bellinger, Denise Carroll, Elmer Parker, Marcia Trayford
Year: 2009
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color
Runtime: 1 h 20 min

Studio: Northeast Film Group
Official Website: Berdella

Kansas City, one of the most notorious havens for serial killers and mass murderers alike, was home to the disturbed homosexual serial killer Bob Berdella.  Between the years 1984 and 1986, he raped, tortured and viciously murdered six young men without mercy.  On April 4th 1988, one of his victims managed to escape.  The victim, whom was being held captive and tormented for about a week, jumped out the window of Berdella's bedroom.  The police were notified immediately, and later arrested Berdella.  They held him for his murders and made him a prime suspect behind two other missing persons.  Previously, there was a fascinating (albeit campy) re-enactment documentary on Berdella, "Bazaar Bizarre," presented by the renowned true-crime author James Ellroy.  For feature length, Paul South and William Taft bring Berdella's perverse story to screen.

As the film opens, viewers are reminded that names and locations have been changed to protect those still living.  On a dark night, a pick-up truck comes to the aid of an inebriated Bob Berdella (Seth Correa), who is wandering aimlessly and stumbling along the side of the road.  The driver and passenger of the vehicle know Bob.  They refer to him as "Bobby," and they kindly offer to give him a ride home.  Bob smokes a joint with them, and shares with them a little secret: He has a young boy tied up in his basement.  He tells them he is wearing his coat, and when he gets home, he will hang him upside down and watch as the blood rushes to his head!  They, of course, do not take him seriously.  Bob just laughs it off as if it's a joke.  When he stumbles into his house, he walks down to his cold cellar.  As it turns out, Bob was not joking.  He really has a young boy hanging upside down, incapacitated and totally nude.  Bob takes a hammer, slowly caresses him with it, then beats his helpless victim to a bloody pulp!

The film wastes no time in revealing the dark side of Bob Berdella.  He kills one of his victims within the first ten minutes.  He works at a strange novelty shop dubbed, 'Bob's Bizarre Bazaar,' which carries the most arcane objects you have ever seen.  Human skulls, for an example.  As a lure, he would offer a "fix" to the local drug addicts.  We see him slash a young man's throat, after he comes to his house for drugs.  On another occasion, he serves drugs to a young couple, while lecturing them about staying clean.  Responsively, the film never forces the audience to feel empathy with him here.  There is no reason to.  This was a sick, twisted individual who killed for pleasure.  The filmmakers simply show him for the way he was.  They document his brutal killing exploits, of course.  But, they also show him in social situations, his unsuspecting group of poker buddies and co-workers, and his strange sense of humor.

Seth Correa plays Bob Berdella to perfection.  His oddball quirks, eccentric behavior and inscrutable mean streak are extremely convincing.  A perturbed smile under his curved moustache suggests a slyness that serial killers wear like a pair of pants.  There is an uncanny resemblance to the actual person, and Correa does not fail in projecting how scary the man was in reality.  This is really a one-man show because, even though the supporting characters are thin and undeveloped, the rest of the cast is pretty weak.  You can sense the amateurish performances.  If Correa did not do such a terrific job and anchor the film with his portrayal, "Berdella" would have ultimately failed.  The budgetary restraints can be seen as clear as day.  The filmmakers bring the grittiness out in a style reminiscent of 1980's serial killer films, such as "Confessions of a Serial Killer" and "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer."  Varying from piano, rock music to electronic chords, the creepy score is undeniably one of the strongest elements of the production.

Berdella DVD Screenshot Image on Severed Cinema

I saw the "Bazaar Bizarre" documentary, and from the looks of it, Paul South and William Taft did their homework with their film version based on Berdella.  I think it's so unfortunate when filmmakers bring a serial killer story to screen, and completely ruin the true crime aspect of it.  With this film, there is a timeline that is faithful to the true events.  One of the film's problems, however, is that it feels so much like a documentary there is nothing more on its agenda than showcasing the point that Berdella was a depraved killer.  Still I don't understand why anyone would call the movie "exploitative."  Though there is much implied here, there are grisly scenes of torture here.  "Berdella" can be particularly cruel -- as evident in a sequence in the third act where a "checklist" of torture is broken down by superimposed titles, as Bob painfully murders his victim.

In its eighty minute runtime, no narrative ever comes to fruition.  Repetition nearly bogs the film down and a huge issue is how it just ends with no gratifying conclusion whatsoever.  "Berdella" feels so much like a documentary in its pacing that it may be bothersome for viewers.  The film also does not attempt to explain "why," or shed much depth into Bob Berdella's persona as a whole.  Bob is already a murderer as the film fades in.  Though flawed, this is surely a promising showcasing of talent.  Strictly for hardcore fans of true crime and serial killer films, "Berdella" is a sleazy, raw glimpse at an obscure, sadistic serial killer.

Berdella DVD Screenshot Image on Severed Cinema

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Berdella DVD Screenshot Image on Severed Cinema

Berdella DVD Screenshot Image on Severed Cinema

Berdella DVD Screenshot Image on Severed Cinema

Berdella DVD Screenshot Image on Severed Cinema

Berdella DVD Screenshot Image on Severed Cinema

Berdella DVD Screenshot Image on Severed Cinema

Berdella DVD Screenshot Image on Severed Cinema

Berdella DVD Screenshot Image on Severed Cinema

Berdella DVD Screenshot Image on Severed Cinema

Berdella DVD Screenshot Image on Severed Cinema

Berdella DVD Screenshot Image on Severed Cinema

Berdella DVD Screenshot Image on Severed Cinema

Berdella DVD Screenshot Image on Severed Cinema

Berdella DVD Screenshot Image on Severed Cinema

Berdella DVD Screenshot Image on Severed Cinema

 RATING:
 VIDEO: 1 
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 AUDIO: 1 
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 DVD: 1 
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 MOVIE: 1 
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 DVD SPECS:
 Aspect Ratio: 16:9
 Region: NTSC R1
 Audio: English 2.0


 SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL:
 - Director Commentary
 - Deleted Scenes
 - Trailers
 - Still Photos
 - Bob Berdella Bio & Timeline

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