The box art on The Alphabet Killer (2008) looked really interesting, the premise sounded intriguing – especially the fact that it was based on a series of real murders, and it starred Eliza Dushku (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Tru Calling, Dollhouse), so I Netflixed it and settled back with my wife to enjoy something of a cerebral romp as we chased a killer through the clues.
Well, the movie doesn’t quite cut it as a police procedural. That became apparent the first time Megan Paige (Dushku) starts to see and hear the first dead girl. The effects are totally creepy, with a skin-crawling voice and prosthetic visuals that definitely belong in a horror movie. There’s one scene where Megan crawls under a bed to get inside the mind of the murdered girl that actually made me jump, and I don’t jump easily.
The storyline is uneven to a degree. We never know why Megan Price is so obsessed with the case and I really wanted to know. With stories like this, the motivation of the characters is really important. We just don’t get it in this one.
Dushku does a good job portraying the character. Megan Price is a far cry from Faith in Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Echo, the character she played on Dollhouse. As Megan Price, Dushku is fragile and barely holding it together, and I instantly sympathized with her. I bought into the portrayal, but that made the missing motivation even more apparent.
The scenes are pretty good overall. The story is set in Rochester, New York, where the actual murders took place back in 1971-1973. The world looks very gray and industrial, thick and oppressive. The horror imagery is almost black and white at times and pops out as very stark, very attention-getting.
Overall, I just wasn’t as happy with the film as I wanted to be. The movie doesn’t deliver full closure for either the character or the plot. In real life, the murders were never solved either, but in fiction I’d like to have things neatly tied up. Megan Paige’s resolution isn’t a happy one either, and I couldn’t believe when the movie ended where it did.
The movie is worth a look if you’re a Dushku fan or are wanting a curious blend of horror and mystery and true crime, and if you won’t mind being left somewhat abruptly at the ending.