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DVD Review: Speck

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Speck is a movie that is interesting in how equally good and awful it is. When you watch it, you think about how bad it is, but no matter what you do, you can't look away. Well, I couldn't, but I am probably in the minority in that respect. It is another one of those "based on a true story" films, and I am sure that liberties were taken with the facts of the case. Of course, this is not a terribly deep film, no matter what the voiceover tells you, so whatever liberties it takes are probably on the minor side of things. Anyway, Speck is a movie that is all about atmosphere and on that level it delivers.

The movie is about Richard Speck, a despicable person, if he even deserves that dignity, who murdered eight nursing students in their dorm in 1966. He was also suspected of other disappearances, murders, and rapes. Like I said, nice guy. This filmed version of the Speck story doesn't dig all that deep, it does not cover any of the early years, nor his trial. Speck centers specifically on that one horrible night, a night that Speck spent torturing, raping, and murdering the eight women in the most disturbing of ways.

Speck follows Richard as he cons his way into the young women's home. You would suspect that the goal was a typical robbery, but we all know better. The rest of he film has us trapped as we are forced to watch as Speck does his deed. There is nothing else to the movie. There is no depth, no real story, just 72 minutes of uncomfortable viewing. Speck ties the women up, they scream, he takes them one by one to other rooms, they scream, he kills them, the screaming stops. It is not easy to watch, but that is what this movie does.

This is a low budget affair, and it shows. The budget almost defines the scope of the project, and this one is limited, almost entirely, to the confines of the dorm house. Within this set we get to watch Doug Cole put on a mean face and move about the house in menacing fashion, and I must say that what he lacks in a truly menacing voice, he makes up for with a pretty imposing presence. I can tell you I wouldn't want to bump into this guy in a dark alley. The women are as convincingly frightened as they are shallow. We do not learn one thing about them other than they are truly afraid, and rightfully so.

Now, while this movie is about one of the most brutal mass killings ever, much of the most brutal violence is either off screen or implied. It is not a terribly bloody movie, so if you are looking for a graphic gorefest, you would best look elsewhere. This is also probably tied back to the budget.

What Speck succeeds at is creating an interesting looking film. The budget, sorry to keep bringing this up, is well hidden by the surprisingly excellent cinematography. There are a lot of interesting angles and compositions. I am not kidding here, it looks good. It is also accompanied by incessant creepy atmospheric music, not really a score, but effective music that works for the film. Those technical elements, the convincing women, and the creepy presence of Cole, all work to the film's advantage, although they do not make it a good movie, just one that is interesting in its execution.

What really brings the movie down are its rather slow pacing and its awful screenplay. Most of the dialogue is delivered as internal monologue by Speck. As I listened to it, I have to wonder if the writers actually read what they wrote. I have a strong suspicion that they just loved their work and never went back to proof it. I mean half of the things that Speck says are almost immediately contradicted in the next line. Sure, this could be on purpose to demonstrate how unbalanced the guy is, but it just strikes me as awkward and  plain poor writing.

In the end, the movie is worth watching for the credible, if thin, performances, and the interesting look the filmmakers were able to achieve. However, its lack of forward momentum and the poor narrative counterbalance that, so that while it is worth it, you have to be ready for it.

Audio/Video. Not the best, not the worst. It is a low budget movie, it is a low budget disk. Audio is presented in stereo and does the job and won't tax your system. Likewise, video is presented in widescreen format and does the job without any glaring issues.

Extras. Two trailers are included, one for Speck and one for Birthrite. I would have liked a commentary, or something.

Bottom line. Not bad, it is a cheap disk to pick up, or toss in your Netflix queue. It is not a movie to watch to learn about Speck, but it has nice atmosphere and is worth a peek. Just keep your expectations low.

Mildly Recommended.

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