Dennis Rader was a serial killer who took the lives of at least ten victims in a stretch during the 1970’s. Rader was the notorious BTK killer who haunted Wichita, Kansas for years. He wore the moniker of BTK; Bind, Torture, Killer. All the while, he was a husband, a father, a Cub Scout den leader, and an upstanding citizen. Meanwhile, he began a killing spree, beginning with the Otero family in 1974, and lasting nearly a decade. He taunted the police and the local media, and then, suddenly, he disappeared. He was caught many years later, through sloppy cleanup of digital evidence, and confessed in 2005.
The modern day horror flick re-telling:
Kane Hodder (who cut his teeth as the stuntman for several Jason films before earning any acting credits) fills the role of Rader; a psychopath who lives a family life, but is unfulfilled until he can act on his more predatory impulses. The film opens with Rader dreaming about binding and killing a woman, while ordering a prostitute to his hotel room. Once she arrives, he explores his own bondage fantasies, and when she tries to double-cross him instead of deliver the results of his pain fetish, he snaps.
Dennis has to shelve his plans for revenge while he returns home to play father to his wife and daughters. The film is set far into Rader’s career, when he is hardly more than a shadow of his past psychopath, using his role as the town’s local law enforcement to position himself as a power against the local housewives. He survives and thrives on his ability to appear superior to the vulnerable women he visits.
Rader isn’t over his killing ways, though, and he returns to his old habits…which at first, die pretty hard. BTK hasn’t completely lost his step, and he manages to add a few new victims to his resume’. Among the finest points of a psychopath is his cover story, as Dennis is on the brink of being his new church president, on top of his role as bread winner and proud father.
Writer/Director pits Rader as more of a choke artist and necrophiliac than a control freak. His lead character/villain lives to overcome and slaughter women, rather than play the role of sadist. There’s little more to the movie’s version of Rader than a man wearing a fake badge, who automatically assumes dominion over every female he meets. He’s very one-dimensional.
Here’s what the film is missing. From a movie standpoint, Rader has no enemy. The film has no troubled detective or special agent spending sleepless nights to tie all the facts together. It’s simply Rader living out his own fantasies. What else is missing? Any empathy to Rader or his victims. BTK is a robotic slave to his bloodlust. His victims routinely make stupid decision involving their safety or that of their children. Viewers are hard-pressed to believe any of them deserve to escape alive.
BTK is a quick, bloody, torturous ride focused on a cast of characters no viewers ever care about. And that’s what sucks about the film’s climax. Rader and his family have a collective outpouring of emotions that would really tear at viewers’ heart strings, if the viewers had been given any reason to care about these characters in the film’s first two acts.
If it’s better to burn out than to fade away, both the real and fictional Dennis Rader failed. He went out with a whimper; turned in by remnants of evidence left on digital disks, rather than some heroic standoff against an ace detective. “BTK” is essentially the chronicle of a murderer no one cares about, pursued by officers no one cares about, as he murders victims no one cares about. It’s a documentary with very little reason any viewer will give a rat’s ass about anyone on screen.
Hodder was known for decades as the speechless behemoth behind the hockey mask, or as the malformed Victor Crowley in “Hatchet”, or the title villain in “Ed Gein.” He plays down to the role of Rader in “BTK”, and Feifer makes sure not to give away Hodder’s muscular stature. Hodder is not bad in this film. He gives life to the beast penned by writer/director Feifer. Unfortunately, his character isn’t likeable or pitiable, and he has no white knight to oppose. He’s just a misled killer, acting on his own impulses…nothing more.
Jeffrey Dahmer was a legitimate psychopath who dreamt of creating sex zombies to live out his fantasies. Richard Ramirez was a troubled mind who tumbled down the slope from rapist to murderer, only to have his life spared in a brilliant legal maneuver. Dennis Rader, well, he was a sadist who mellowed, and eventually got caught over an act of stupidity under mundane circumstances. His story, and the film adaptation, follows a trail of hype resulting in a letdown. In the end, the BTK killer and the BTK movie start off interesting, and end up just another quiet story.
The DVD includes a few special features. First up is a behind the scenes short that discusses making BTK. There is a director and actor commentary track, gallery stills, the film’s trailer, and subtitles. Other than that, there isn’t much to the DVD.