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Lions Gate presents
Gacy (aka The Crawl Space) (2002)

"I have a question for you. A quick question. What do I do for stink coming from my crawl space?
- John Gacy (Mark Holton)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: June 08, 2003

Stars: Mark Holton, Charlie Weber
Other Stars: Tom Waldman, Allison Lange, Edith Jefferson, Adam Baldwin, Larry Hankin
Director: Clive Saunders

MPAA Rating: R for (strong grisly violence, language, some sexuality and drug use)
Run Time: 01h:28m:31s
Release Date: May 13, 2003
UPC: 658149812529
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- C-CB- B-

DVD Review

I'll say right out of the box that I was terribly disappointed after watching Gacy (aka The Crawl Space), a supposedly "grisly and violent" film about the Chicago-area serial killer who buried the bodies of thirty-three of his murder victims in the crawl space of his suburban home in the late 1970s.

I was disappointed because, well, just look at the sheer promise shown by the brilliant cover art: John Wayne Gacy as Pogo The Clown. If that pic doesn't raise a goose pimple or two, I'm not sure what will. The real-life subject matter, as grim and darkly horrifying as it is, would seem to be ideal source material for a potentially chilling look at the sadistic double life of one of the world's most infamous serial killers.

Yet, Clive Saunder's Gacy somehow fails to deliver.

In Saunder's defense, he did land one of low-budget cinema's most bizarrely perfect casting coups ever by snagging Mark Holton to portray John Gacy. Holton (that's his mug on the cover, in full clown-face makeup), who was Pee-Wee Herman's pudgy nemesis Francis in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, plays the title role here as if Gacy were some kind of a sadistic, murderous, purely evil extension of Francis, and his performance is full of high camp wonder. There is a creeping air of familiarity about Holton, thanks to his role as Francis, and it adds the necessary dark undercurrent to his portrayal of Gacy; his performance blows away Brian Dennehy's stab at the serial killer in 1992's To Catch a Killer, which itself is no small feat.

But it's the way that the story is told that renders this so painful to watch, and it seems to have been assembled in a noticeably slapdash manner. We are never given anything close to reason that explains why he became a serial killer, other than a tacky opening sequence where a young Gacy is humiliated by his father on a camping trip, who calls him a "jagoff." That one scene alone is left dangling out there, with no further explanation as to the events preceding it, or more importantly, what happened afterwards. If it were in fact some horrendously pivotal catalyst in the life of Gacy, it is never fully explained or even mentioned again during the course of the film.

Saunders (who penned the screenplay, along with David Birke), jumps the story ahead to 1976, when Gacy is supposed to be a well-respected community leader with some kind of building business that requires him having a number of young men working for him, yet Holton plays him as a largely unlikable and closeted homosexual with extremely violent tendencies. We never get to see the Gacy some members of the public apparently saw, and though Holton is sublimely creepy in the role, the presentation of what made him tick is never fleshed out at all. It is simply a mildly repetitive tale of kill and bury.

The film's signature moments, like Gacy as Pogo or the game room full of nightmare-inducing clown paintings, do show a hint of the potential that was here, but it is just never developed. Instead, we get far too many shots of maggots and cockroaches in the crawl space, and neighbors continually complaining about the ever-present smell.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: The 1.33:1 full-frame transfer won't earn much praise from me, because this is just an ugly presentation all the way around. Colors are severely faded, with no degree of consistency from scene to scene, while black levels are overly muddy. Image detail is soft, and there are plenty of examples of minor image blurring in a number of spots, as well as intermittent grain.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The audio transfer is offered in simple 2.0 stereo (available in either English or Spanish). Nothing particularly flashy here, and the presentation itself is pretty basic, with dialogue staged relatively cleanly and clearly.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Antibody, Rapid Exchange, Marines, Avenging Angelo
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Mark Holton, Susan Rodgers, Larry Rattner
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Aside from a handful of trailers, Gacy's primary supplement is a full-length, scene-specific commentary track from actor Mark Holton and producers Larry Rattner and Susan Rodgers. A good portion concerns the usual chatter about casting and location issues, with a smattering of comments on which portions of the script were based on actual real-life facts. Rodgers, however, tosses out an amusing discourse on how the actors had to adopt the proper Chicago inflection for such often-used phrases as "douche bag" and "jagoff". Not a remarkably insightful track overall, but the participants are generally fairly talkative.

The single-layer disc is cut into 24 chapters.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Kevin Kline said it best in A Fish Called Wanda: "Disappointed!"

Mark Holton has great moments as John Gacy, but he is trapped in a presentation of facts that is nerve-rackingly choppy and poorly edited.


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