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A little-known but extremely disturbing chiller, based on a notorious true story
Between 1978 and 1983, Dennis Nilsen - an outwardly unremarkable former soldier and police officer turned civil servant - killed at least fifteen men and boys (most of them students or homeless) in gruesome circumstances, allegedly retaining the corpses for sex acts before disposing of the butchered remains by hiding them in cupboards, under the floorboards, or simply by flushing them down the toilet. This grimy, clammy, little-seen independent film is a lightly fictionalised account of Nilsen's hideous deeds, with a standout performance from Bob Flag as the milquetoast murderer, here renamed Jorden March.
Fhiona Louise's film, clearly made on a shoestring budget, steers clear of exploitation tactics, choosing instead to cast its characters adrift in a singularly bleak, uncaring and desolate world of tatty pubs, squalid bed-sits, greasy cafés and grubby bathrooms. The police interrogation of March is inter-cut with flashbacks that reveal not just his crimes (a living room disembowelment and the discovery of what's blocking the drains will send a shiver down the spines of even the hardiest souls) but also provide a window of understanding into what has tipped the apparently kindly loner over the edge. Louise's direction is unobtrusive and detached, allowing the lengthy exchanges between the characters to play out in several lengthy takes, but it's this cold, flat, cinema-verité style that affords the proceedings much of their chilling power, conveying the sense that such horrors really could be unfolding in the street, or even the house, just around the corner.
It's an easy film to admire - it won several awards - but it's not an easy film to watch, let alone enjoy. As a fitting footnote, a caption card dedicates the preceding horrors to "those too sensitive for this world" - which, in his own perverse and twisted way, Nilsen surely was.
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