Friday, August 14, 2015

Review: Angel Maker: Serial Killer Queen

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2015
Images from the Internet

Angel Maker: Serial Killer Queen
Directed by O.H. Krill
Reality Films / Alchemy Werks
World Wide Multi Media
57 minutes, 2014 / 2015

Next to Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614), Britain’s Amelia Dyer (1837-1896) is considered the most prolific serial killer known, with an estimated 400 infant deaths by her hands during the last quarter of the 19th century (an average of 20 per year). Living in poverty, this matronly granny started taking care of babies – mostly illegitimate – and either starved or strangled (via a cloth cord) them to get more, dumping the bodies in the Thames.
You see, there was a process called Baby Farming, where you gave up your infant by paying someone to be sure that the child was taken care of (we now call that having a full-time nanny as many celebrities and those very rich are known to do), or adopted out. A flat fee was paid, so if more money was to be found, there had to be a turnover (aka free market capitalism). The more children, the more money.
This extremely slow moving documentary tells us a bit about the culture that led to this practice as a whole, and Dyer individually. A narrator tells the story in bits and pieces over mostly black and white public domain film clips, or over vintage photos, mostly of dead babies; taking pictures of dead children either alone or as a whole family was a “thing” early in photography to help remember those who passed on. Many of these images are used over and over and over and over again.
While I found the information itself interesting, as I knew a smattering about her and it was good to learn more, this is not a very good documentary as a whole. After all if the discussion is about a serial killer I really shouldn’t be bored by 15 minutes in. The problem is trifold. First, as I stated, images are used multiple times, so there really isn’t much to look at other than trying to guess the origin of the film clips (they are listed in the end credits if you want to check them off); one has Victor Mature talking to Aunt Bea (Frances Bavier), who actually is physically somewhat close to our Ms. Dyer, perhaps why they used this clip as its otherwise unconnected. Second, I can understand that the story of Dyer is dire, but the monotone clipped tone of the narrator is more drone that anything else.
But the biggest problem with the film is that it’s a two-pound potato in a 25-pound bag. In other words, the film is actually about 20 minutes long, tops, but there are so many extended and unnecessary gaps between most sentences for the purpose of lengthening, that it starts to get really annoying in short order. Imagine if this review was written with one or two sentences per page, and you knew you had to be on each page for a minute or two, that could give you some idea of what I am talking about. If the script was read at a normal pace, that would mean less repetition of images, and a quicker and more interesting pace.
The text for the story is fine; the poison in the pudding really is the pacing. In fact, you can get just about all the core info you need, including Dyer fate, from the trailer (below). That is not accomplished filmmaking, it is (owl) stretching time. Perhaps this was a telly show over the Pond and it needed to be this length? That’s the only reason I can think of other than the greed of trying to get this into theaters or festivals as a feature rather than a short. Not worth it for the viewer.
The redeeming feature of the film is pointing out the social politics of pure capitalism, with the wide divide between rich and poor and the latter getting royally screwed (pun intended). Pre-union, there was no way for people to thrive without some regulation, and a large share were literally worked to death. Baby farming became a reality because people could not financially care for their own children. And this is an aside, but this is also what the Republicans are trying to bring back. The lack of care of the mental ill under this type of social structure is also discussed, though not deeply enough. Focusing more on these as a bookend to Dyer’s story would have certainly filled up those time gaps, but this is just lazy.
The trailers for other documentaries on the DVD look equally dismal, including one explaining how the Loch Ness monster is actually a space alien, and another exposing that the United States is being run by the Masons; I almost expected it to be about the supposed Illuminati when the trailer began.
Do yourself a favor and look up the info about Dyer on a Serial Killer fan site, or even on Wikipedia, from which this film is almost rewritten point by point. You’ll definitely get the same image of her. Or, if you have the time and patience, there is this documentary.

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