Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #419
Also Known As: The Gilgo Beach Murders
Number of Views: One
Release Date: 12 November 2013
Sub-Genre: True Crime
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 81 minutes
Director: Joseph DiPietro
Producers: Joseph DiPietro, Adam Ginsberg
Screenplay: Joseph DiPietro, Michael Eimicke
Special Effects: DarkRiver Productions
Cinematography: J. Poisson
Editing: Dave Campfield, Joseph DiPietro
Studio: LISKmovie, TwitchTwitch Productions See
Distributor: WildEye Releasing
Stars: Jennifer Polansky, Adam Ginsberg, Dewey Wynn, Renee Kay, Ryan Kaiser, Lindsay DeLuca, Matthew Smolko, Josephine Pizzino, Stav Livne, Joe Mankowski, Guy Balotine, Chrissy Laboy, Sara Antkowiak, Patrick Devaney, Jeffrey Alan Solomon, Samantha Rivers Cole, Kelly Rae LeGault
Suggested Audio Candy:
Johnny Hollow Boogeyman
The Long Island Serial Killer is responsible for one of the most perplexing cases of unsolved mass murder in modern history and, to this day, is still the subject of constant media speculation. The crimes came to light in late 2010 when a number of bodies were found strangulated and dumped in Gilgo Beach, Manorville and, since then, a number of mutilated corpses have been discovered within a few mile radius. Many of the victims were involved in the escort business and the common thread linking them all was that they advertised their services on Craigslist. The killer is thought to be a white male between his mid-twenties and mid-forties and possibly someone with extensive knowledge of law enforcement as, five years later, authorities are still no closer to ascertaining the truth. Meanwhile, the The Long Island Serial Killer remains unapprehended and potentially still at large.
Joseph DiPietro is first out of the traps in tackling the subject on film and The Long Island Serial Killer has evidently proved a great labor of love for the first-time director originally heralding from Connecticut. Whilst shot in 2013, it has taken two years for it to reach sunlight, and DiPietro’s film has altered rather a lot during the interim. Originally well over two hours long, it has been edited down to a far more palatable 81 minutes and, from what I can gather, the entire tone has changed dramatically over that period. Given that it was produced on a shoestring budget and the most extravagant part of production was its audio, this would appear to have been a shrewd idea and, having watched it, I am inclined to agree.
The Long Island Serial Killer is a curious beast. It flits between two focal storylines and never really settles into any true kind of rhythm. Having said that, a number of factors raise it above mediocrity. Starting from the top we have the killer himself, played by an actor for whom I hold gargantuan respect, Adam Ginsberg. We are left in no doubt that this cat is a wrong ‘un by the time the opening scene has played out and DiPietro wastes absolutely no time in showing him up close and personal. Ginsberg oozes quiet menace and is perched somewhere between kindliness and hostility as he introduces himself in the comfort of his own home. Interestingly, for a killer that has never actually been captured, his anonymity is never protected. It is a courageous move on the director’s part and Ginsberg is perfectly cast as the killer in question.
While his performance is chilling, his placement in the narrative defies logic. Practically bookending the movie, he is placed on our radars then snatched away for a long period while another protagonist becomes sole focus. Whenever he is present, Ginsberg holds our attention effortlessly, although I am aware of this man’s ability and would liked to have seen his leash slackened a dash more. Often pacing about offscreen as he delivers his ominous sermon, the emphasis is too often placed on his quarry, denying us the opportunity to look into the whites of his eyes. The script by DiPietro and co-writer Michael Eimicke is serviceable but doesn’t give him enough gristle to chew on and it’s hard not feeling that it’s something of a missed trick as he shows he possesses every tool to look directly into a lens and truly unsettle his addressee which is never quite taken advantage of enough.
Then there is Tina Everett (Jennifer Polansky) and, again, DiPietro’s casting decisions are more than justified. Like Ginsberg, Polansky is exceptional throughout, and I believe a bright future awaits this young lady on this evidence, should she choose to pursue this path further. We follow Tina as she dabbles for the first time in the escort business and tag along as she learns the ropes. She is portrayed as being principled and agreeable, while her reasons for the sudden change in vocation are forced more by a run of lousy fortune and questionable significant other than anything else. Much is demanded of Polansky and she comes good on her promise like a seasoned professional. We are desperate for her to reach the killer’s clutches and, during a suitably insular closing act, we finally get our wish.
Not before some particularly shady shenanigans play out. The scene whereby Tina’s escort cherry is popped may well class as one of my annual standouts. Finicky germophobe Jude (English-born Guy Balotine) is simply something else. The severity of his OCD is so extreme that he likely washes bars of soap to cleanse them of their impurities. Somehow, as inexplicably as the Gilgo beach murders themselves, Jude manages to win us over and Tina provides him the ideal foil as he reveals his exclusive terms in a manner most concise. Exhibiting more than a waft of the Batemans; part of me was egging him on to deliver the line “Christy, get down on your knees so Sabrina can see your asshole”. I kid you not, this scene couldn’t have run too long for my liking, and both Balotine and Polansky come away smelling of roses (and hand sanitizer).
A number of other characters are introduced and each does their level best with Joe Mankowski standing out, frantically attempting not to arouse suspicion with his wife, as twitchy play-away husband Benjamin. However, it all feels a little inconsequential. My main gripe with The Long Island Serial Killer is that it lacks focus. Evidently the editing process has been problematic and one feels it has been patched together somewhat awkwardly. Meanwhile, the audio, which proved the costliest commodity remember, is both misguided and particularly distracting. Having said that, we aren’t talking of a big-budget studio picture here. For a film shot with considerably limited funds; it fares reasonably well.
For a film such as this to achieve distribution, the studio often holds the aces and, here, they are accountable for any tonal inconsistencies, as the focus has shifted markedly from what was originally intended to hone in on Tina’s plight more than anything else. It’s a little muddled if truth be known and, like the Gilgo beach murders themselves, the cutting room floor appears to hold the only true answers. A lesson learned then for the fledgling director; which offers further evidence of Ginsberg’s immense versatility, and unearths a potentially precious stone in Polansky. Give her to Jude; he’ll provide her with a nice thorough polish.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 5/10
Grue Factor: 1/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: It’s hard coming down too hard with regards to missed opportunity as a volatile showing from families of the real-life victims played a key role in the lack of gory detail on exhibit. When you bear in mind how current the subject matter; his decision is entirely justifiable. Relatively bloodless, it does however contain one moment of knee-jerk brutality which you simply will not see coming. However, he remains unerringly respectful throughout. As for the skin quota, call me a pervert and I’ll rub my knees and slobber in your lap, but a little more debauchery wouldn’t have cost the world. Considering the theme, DiPietro’s lens is never particularly intrusive and perhaps this would have provided the additional edge found wanting. With all said and done, a personal service is being provided, and it just feels a touch sanitized. I bet that nit-picking buzz kill Jude had something to do with that. Never mind you saucy sex machine; we’d still kiss your cheek.
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