Rochester, NY. 1971 - Carmen Colon, 11 years old, went missing for two days. Her body was found 12 miles from her home 12 miles away in the town of Churchville.
April, 1973 - Wanda Walkowicz disappeared, and her body was found the next day in Webster.
November, 1973 - Michelle Maenza disappeared, and her body was found two days later in Macedon.
These are facts, from a real series of murders. The killer was never found, despite investigations and even arrests made over the past 30 years.
“The Alphabet Killer” opens with the statement that it is based upon actual events. Unfortunately, names and settings seem to be the only basis that the film, written by Tom Malloy, has in common with the alphabet murders.
The film focuses on Megan Paige, a Lieutenant with the Rochester Police Department as the story unfolds. She has an amazing case closure rate, largely due to her ability to get hyper-focused on the details of an investigation. When Carmen’s body is found, she and her partner/fiancée, Ken Shine (Elwes (Saw, The Princess Bride)) are the first investigators on the scene. Carmen’s psychic energy seems to call to Paige (Eliza Dushku (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Tru Calling), and her obsession soon becomes overwhelming. She converts the couple’s loft into a war room, covering every inch with notes and theories about Carmen’s murder. She begins seeing ghostly images of Carmen’s corpse during her bouts of sleep-deprived hallucination.
The hallucinations become too much, and Paige attempts to commit suicide. She survives, but she is reduced to a role in records, ordered on medication, and entered into group therapy for those suffering adult onset schizophrenia. The group is led by the wheelchair-bound, charismatic Richard Ledge (Leverage lead man Timothy Hutton). He begins to feel the male void that Megan lost when she tried to take her own life. Ken didn’t stick by her side, but he did earn a promotion to Captain.
Following the second murder, Megan begs for a chance to help the investigation. Ken reluctantly agrees, pairing her with the hard-nosed Officer Steven Harper (writer/actor Malloy). The two have an uncomfortable meeting with Webster Police Chief Norcross (Michael Ironside (The Machinist, Top Gun). They leave, with no trust of one another, and even less of Norcross. Megan begins to hallucinate once again, and she returns to Richard for guidance. He gives her advice and helps her to carry on, following the investigation.
The film takes a major turning point when Megan answers the call to a hostage situation in Webster. A mentally disturbed man is holding two women at gun point, including a woman named Elizabeth Eckers. The double-E draws the full force of the police, but Megan rushes in, and manages to defuse the situation. Unfortunately, the peaceful outcome she has mapped out isn’t the end result.
The hostage situation hits her hard, and Megan becomes disoriented and desperate. She chases lead after lead as the shadows of the dead girls hover around her. She refuses to stop, even when ordered to. She makes assumptions, accusations, and eventually, one costly mistake.
The film’s finale’ reveals exactly what happened, who did it, and whether Megan was right to trust her premonitions, or to fall victim to their inflexibility.
“The Alphabet Killer” is a great direct-to-DVD film, with limited budget, a veteran cast, and an interesting twist on the typical cop drama. The film isn’t without its problems. Attempting to build a supernatural story on a brief string of real-life murders is a mistake. The victims’ families and communities are still out there, looking for answers, and turning their fates into some fireside ghost story shows disrespect.
Director Rob Schmidt (Wrong Turn, Crime and Punishment in Siberia) shoots most of the film so tight that viewers feel they’re violating the characters’ personal space. Many key scenes are too close up, making viewers feel like retreating instead of leaning forward to understand more of the story and the characters’ motive.
Malloy moves most of his characters around well, but there are a few too predictable twists (including the main plotline.) The pacing is good. The idea behind the cliffhanger ending is excellent. The acting is, for the most part, above par, but the end result is a sum less than its parts. “The Alphabet Killer” is an okay supernatural suspense. However, it doesn’t do justice to the victims and the families whose graves it stirs up in the name of a few scares.
The film’s official movie site is http://www.alphabetkiller.com .