Voices: Edmund Emil Kemper, Geto Boys, David Swatling, Ted Bundy, Colman Hogan, Kenneth Bianchi.
Drawn from a mix of fictional and factual writings, “Ten Monologues From the Lives of the Serial Killers” brews a heady cocktail of psychopathic and sociopathic experience. Director Ian Kerkhof applies a medley of styles to material that runs from unsettling, purely textual rants to blasts of discomforting imagery. Though it makes no pretense of offering real insight into the mind of a murderer, this killer compendium is a guaranteed attention-getter for festival lineups.
Most disquieting and penetrating of the 10 episodes is one featuring a scratchy home movie of a child playing in a park. Accompanying the seemingly happy footage is an almost tender voiceover in which a sexually abused son recounts how his need for his father turned to revulsion. His darkening recollections culminate in the father’s being slain in the same secluded park, and the son’s confession of feeling closer to the butchered corpse than to the living man.
Parental hatred is also a driving force for the opening piece, “Mother’s Day.” The camera dances a slow, probing circle around the expressionless figure of a chain-smoking convicted killer as his offscreen voice recalls how he beheaded his belittling mother, and the remorse he felt afterward.
Other sequences are more abstract, with the standout a passage from English author J.G. Ballard’s “Crash.” The excerpt, which fuses love and morbidity in the aftermath of an auto accident, is read against a black screen flashing to a succession of brutal images.
Ballard’s “The Atrocity Exhibition” is the source of a murderous litany recited by an inmate as a soul chant, and later as a solemn death count. The Geto Boys’ Jeffrey Dahmer-inspired rap, “Murder Avenue,” provides a more explicit linguistic shocker, sure to incite adverse reactions.
Also provocative is a murderer’s discussion of pornography, and his condemnation of the entry of graphic violence into the average home via television. The diatribe is laid over footage of a naked man (Kerkhof) masturbating while watching an S&M video.
Kerkhof’s one foray into slightly more conventional narrative terms — a bitter, soft-spoken Brit’s ruminations as he follows a potential victim across a park — reps the film’s least distinctive chapter.
Lenser Joost van Gelder’s work takes a different approach to each episode, at times stalking his subject from a distance and at others observing from a static position, with shifting light patterns. Editing travels from jumpiness to fluidity, in line with the shifting tones of the monologues.