Starkweather Byron Werner

The mystery of what makes a serial killer has been solved: it's the supporting cast of Dark City. An under lit trench coat-clad meanie voiced by Lance Henriksen is constantly badgering young Charles Starkweather (Brent Taylor), the teenage outcast who in 1957 shot 11 people with his 14-year-old girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate (Shannon Lucio). "Don't be a wimp," he says, "kill and be a man!" And though the real Starkweather spoke of a dark man exhorting him to kill, his clumsy employment here sums up the failure of a production that wants to shock and horrify but is far too Mickey Mouse to deliver the goods. Exhuming real-life murders for cheap thrills is a dubious practice, requiring considerable artistry to redeem itself, such as what Terence Malick brought to his Starkweather gloss Badlands. But where Malick used the case to examine a species of American alienation, Byron Werner is just turning in a story, idly noting Starkweather's inferiority complex and the obsession of a boring cop (Jerry Kroll) who swears to bring him down. On the one hand, it's largely exploitative, depending on the killer duo's callous disregard for its pulpy charge; on the other, it's far too tentative and unsure to give that charge much wattage. It's not the actors' fault that they've been directed to inadequate performances; Taylor in particular seems to have more in him than he's allowed to show. And to be fair, Werner's dazzling golden yellow cinematography suggests that he has real talent as a DP. But as filmmaking and reportage, the film is a wash. The only extras are a commentary by Werner and editor Karl T. Hirsch, who demonstrate how they cleverly cut corners while offering facile interpretations of the action, and a brief featurette that's too short to make an impression. (Velocity/Th!nk)