B.T.K. – Horror Film Review

Recently released on region one DVD, Michael Feifer’s B.T.K. describes itself as ‘a fictional film based on a real character’. That character is the serial killer Dennis L. Rader, who was arrested in March 2005 for the murder of ten people, in a killing spree that spanned two decades. Rader was known as “B.T.K.” because of his penchant for binding, torturing and then killing his victims. He was perceived by those who knew him, as an ordinary, law abiding, family man. He was President of the Congregation Council at his church and Cub Scout leader. Married, with two daughters, no one suspected he had another, more sinister side.
B.T.K. does not tell us the story from the beginning, but picks up after Rader has been killing for many years already. The film shows us how, whilst working as a compliance officer (the perfect job for such a control freak), Rader chooses his victims by accusing them of minor offenses and seeing how they react. Those who argue don’t live long enough to regret it: Rader goes back to their house later and kills them. He gets his sexual kicks by watching them suffer, seeing the horror in their eyes as he suffocates or strangles them. There are a few gruesome moments, but the sheer terror of these doesn’t come across because of the unrealistic reactions of the victims.
I was curious to see how Kane Hodder, most famous for his role as Jason Vorhees in some of the FRIDAY THE 13th movies, would fare without his hockey mask. There is no doubt he can pull off a machete wielding, maniac; unfortunately, as Rader, his performance is average at best. Luckily for him, alongside Amy Lindon as Rader’s wife Susan, he almost looks good!
B.T.K. does not tell us much about what makes Rader tick. Feifer does make the odd clumsy attempt to put us in the picture, such as when Rader tells his victim about his urges and explains why he feels the need to do what he does, but it is patently apparent that this is the only way Feifer could get his message to us, and it feels as if he cheated by writing it in such a blatant way. In fact the screenwriting is below par throughout the film, which is surprising since this isn’t Feifer’s first serial killer film.
Feifer’s direction can only be described as average. There are moments that should have supplied the jump-scares; however, there is no build up of tension, and the musical score is weak, adding nothing to the atmosphere, so these potential moments pass by, unnoticed.
This is such a shame, because B.T.K. could have been a very frightening film. The story has potential. There’s nothing scarier than an average guy, living an ordinary life, who in his spare time tortures and brutally kills, before going home to his family and carrying on as if nothing has happened. Unfortunately, the story is not well told, and as a result the film is awasted opportunity.
NOTE: This film is not to be confused with B.T.K. KILLER, which was also released by Lionsgate Home Entertainment.
Lionsgate Home Entertainment’s website lists no special features for its Region 1 DVD (released in the U.S. on May 12). The Region 2 disc features an Audio Commentary with Director Michael Feifer and Actor Kane Hodder, and a Behind The Scenes featurette.

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