Dear Mr. Gacy’s highlight is when the two stars, William Forsythe as Gacy and Jesse Moss as college student Jason meet face-to-face. Jason takes a unique approach to his criminology final, believing he can get inside the head of one of the nation’s most notorious serial killers. His correspondence leads to a confrontation between the two of them inside a cell on one of Gacy’s last days.
Both actors are convincing, Forsythe portraying maniacal mood swings as his warped mind is unable to remain stable, and Jason remains calm until overwhelming panic steps in. He begins fearing for his life, the prison guards unconcerned.
Jason’s experiences led a book, “The Last Victim,” and eventually into this film. Jason sadly committed suicide in 2006 for reasons unknown. This film adaptation portrays his as intelligent, eager, and even a little bit of a thrill-seeker. He’s excited to discuss things with John (for the grade for his own purposes is unclear), and believes he will be able to outlast a psychopath, or even outsmart him to get the information he wants.
Things do not go as planned. Gacy has just as much an upper-hand, pulling Jason into a world of sexual perversion and paranoia that is all-consuming. Jason begins to break down, his maddening turn causing him to panic, carrying a gun in the belief that Gacy’s fictional “outside” friends will kill him, and reject everyone in his life.
That’s where Dear Mr. Gacy goes wrong. Jason’s mental state is deliberately broken down throughout the film, so on edge we believe he could pull the trigger on anyone, or even kill a prostitute in cold blood. When he answers the phone after days of ringing and is offered the chance to sit down with Gacy, everything else falls to the wayside. All of the mental anguish, all of torture, and all of those things Jason was forced to do are past history with only a single edit. It’s like Jason was addicted, that one phone call days prior to Gacy’s execution enough to give him a high.
Character traits prior don’t establish that connection, more of a curiosity and deep interest into the subject. Jason doesn’t seem interested in Gacy himself so much as his twisted, disillusioned mind. The audience is given that incite, the performances capable enough to do so, but Jason remains a mystery.
Dear Mr. Gacy comes from Anchor Bay, the studio delivering an AVC encode that seems to reflect the lower budget, and thus likely lower-quality film stock. We open on taped footage of bodies being taken out from the Gacy home, and there are scenes elsewhere that focus on TV screens that are obviously of a significantly diminished quality, obviously no fault of the encode.
Once into the film, softness dominates, few scenes producing any rigid, tight definition. Other shots carry a slight haze by design, further accentuating the softer qualities. There is minimal high-fidelity detail on display short of the close-ups. Clarity is fine, a shot of the jail exterior at 11:53 a fairly striking image. Others are not the same, such as Jason’s home minutes later at 13:45, somewhat hazy. The best attributes afforded to the presentation are the close-ups of Forsythe in his cell. Facial detail is sublime, aided by some intensely focused lighting.
Black levels are merely average, lacking a rich depth even at their peak. Everything is missing that extra kick of dimensionality. Shadow detail is fine, some of the seediest moments of the film quite dark and the entirety of the frame remains visible. The color palette is subdued, with flesh tones taking on a faded hue.
A series of flashbacks are tinted sepia, giving audiences a glimpse of Gacy’s crimes. A noise filter sits over these scenes, resolved decently by this encode. The minimal film grain that exists over the rest of the film is barely evident, of course leading to no distinct noise or compression problems short of the walls at 34:13. There is one moment where some flicker is noted, to the right of Jason about 1:13:10. The light in the background seems to be fluctuating rapidly for some reason, a bit distracting in a fairly crucial shot.
There is very little going on with this TrueHD mix, a dialogue-driven drama that presents almost nothing but, well, dialogue. It’s all consistent, no variations in fidelity and almost no front channel split for it either, save for one line late as Jason sits in a tub.
The score is much the same, minimally there when needed with a minor split and barely discernible bleed into the rears. The film’s music takes over as Jason enters into a club at 34:20, the bass spilling out into the room aggressively and yet again, the ambiance is virtually nill. Nothing here is particularly forceful or intense, but adequate.
The Gacy Files is the only extra on the disc, a 22-minute look at Gacy himself, including some interesting footage of Forsythe talking to one of Gacy’s childhood friends in preparation for the role.
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