Starkweather (2004)
By: Michael Helms on May 2, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
MRA (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 90 minutes
The Movie
Director: Byron Werner
Starring: Brent Taylor, Shannon Lucio, Lance Henriksen, Jerry Kroll
Screenplay: Stephen Johnston
Music: Mike McHugh
Tagline: "The original natural born killer..."
Country: USA
It's currently raining serial killer flicks and writer Stephen Johnston has been in the thick of it scripting the likes of Ed Gein, Bundy, The Hillside Strangler, and the recent MRA release of Starkweather. Here he does remain relatively faithful to the known facts which he develops cinematically by introducing Starkweather's conscience who appears in the form of a constantly silhouetted Lance Henrikson (surely this must be one of the first instances outside of an animated feature where an actor shares top billing for not showing his face).

As referred to by the film's clever ad lines, Starkweather and his girlfriend Caril-Ann Fugate were the first thrill killers to recieve mass media attention when Starkweather notched up nearly a dozen kills in the late 50s, becoming as mentioned in the EPK, the most popular story to come out of Nebraska since the Great Depression. The pair have already been immortalised in celluloid several times, quite literally in Terence Malick's Badlands and more inspirationally in True Romance, Kalifornia, and Natural Born Killers, which the blurb on the slick is not shy about telling you about. Too bad viewers aren't left to make the connections themselves although Starkweather would probably shift a lot less units without the marketing guidance. Whatever, Starkweather is a rather perfunctory re-telling of the story that does it's best to deliver on a very low budget and often goes beyond the boundaries of TV movie standards especially when demonstrating Starkweather's penchant for finishing off his kills with a large knife. The film only once hints at any perverse reasons for the killing spree when Charlie is caught by Caril-Ann about to commit necrophilia with his prettiest victim (see the still in the centre of the back of the slick). Brent Taylor as Starkweather bears more than a passing resemblance to Vince Vaughn (the Psycho re-visioning) often radiating an intelligence that the character he's playing obviously wouldn't have had. The casting of Caril -Ann seems to be the result of an agent's fantasy more than anything, often undermining the dynamics between her and her boyfriend. After the first kill which Starkweather dedicates to her, she responds by saying that it's the sweetest thing anyone's ever done for her, which seems unlikely coming from the mouth of the highly aesthetically pleasing Shannon Lucio, even if they do come from Nowhereville.
From barren landscapes to self-generated newsreel footage, Starkweather looks superb at all times which is probably the major benefit of having the director also in charge of the actual shooting and gives the film a quality beyond what you could reasonably expect given the low-budget and reported rushed nature of its filming.
The Dolby stereo sound is full and constantly pulses along with a music track that features some great 'original' 50s material.
Extra Features
Trailers (including Starkweather), talent profiles which are filmographies for Brent Taylor (who only has two other credits) and Lance Henrikson, and a 9 minute electronic press kit that includes interview material with Stephen Johnston and director/cinematographer Byron Werner. Unlike the US release there's no commentary track.
The Verdict
A low budget regurgitation of a familiar story that only really adds Lance Henrikson's silhouette and voice to little effect. A newsreel fantasy sequence filmed on Super 8 is the only other enhacement of interest that simply leaves it to be classed as a curio. While Starkweather is not a complete waste of space you could certainly compliment your viewing by chasing down the bio-pic of obscure 60s killer Charles Schmid, the Pied Piper of Tucson, in Dead Beat and make it a double bill to remember.
Movie Score
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