The pious John List regularly goes to church and is respected by his neighbours. But one day the police find his wife Helen and their three children slain in their house - obviously by John...
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Michael W. Watkins
Charles S. Dutton,
Jo D. Jonz
The pious John List regularly goes to church and is respected by his neighbours. But one day the police find his wife Helen and their three children slain in their house - obviously by John, who left two letters for the police and his priest and disappeared. Chief Richland is disgusted by the murders and starts an intensive investigation. In flashbacks we learn about the history of the disaster. Written by
Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>
Based on true events this is a disjointed and at times confusing story of John List a conservative member of the Lutheran Church, an accountant by trade, a poor husband and father especially as he lacked the social skills to deal with his colleagues at work and could not deal with his children as they grew older.
Unable to hold down a job or get promotion and deep in debt he killed his family including his supposedly overbearing mother and was in hiding for about 20 years in which time he got a new identity and married again.
According to the film List was helped to secure his escape because of the length of time it took for the victims bodies to be discovered and the ineffectual role of the law enforcement agencies. It was only the actions of one determined cop and the help of a television show that brought List to justice.
The film starts after List has killed his wife, children and mother. We see blood, we him eating his dinner and cleaning up before he leaves the property. We get flashbacks of him as a child being taught life lessons by his mother.
Living in Britain, I had no idea about this true life story and when the murders took place. Therefore I was left confused as to the time setting of the murders. It could had been anywhere in the 1950s to the 1980s going buy the cars and the art direction. It would had helped if the film gave the viewer a date setting even though the filmmakers took creative licence with the story.
The film is pieced together by the investigating officer talking to various family members, fellow workers and a priest leading to flashbacks leading up to the murders. These flashbacks continue throughout the film as we see List leading his new life and in a sense repeating the mistakes he made with his first family.
The problem is that apart from Robert Blake, no one gets a chance to make an impression with their characters. David Caruso is wasted in almost what is a cameo.
The way Blake portrays List, he is almost a loony toon about to go off like a firecracker at any minute. His List is a man out of sync with the world. There is nothing unusual about that, I know many religious people where religion is in effect a comfort blanket in a world that they do not understand.
We are told in the movie that the reason he was unable to hold a job was he lacked the skill set to get along with people. He was passed over for promotion, in social settings with families of co-workers he was embarrassed by his wife who caused scenes including making allegations that he was a wife beater. Blake's characterisation was so frightening you are shocked that he managed to woo a woman and get married a second time.
The film has that 1990s cable television movie sheen, its rather badly made and wastes some good actors and an interesting story. Although made in 1993, the version of the film I saw was updated to include new captions that informs you that List died in 2008 and was buried next to his mother.
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