Diary of a Serial Killer (1998)
“Silence Of The Lambs… Seven… Now, Diary Of A Serial Killer.”
Director: Joshua Wallace
Cast: Gary Busey, Michael Madsen, Arnold Vosloo
Synopsis: A struggling freelance writer, while investigating the transvestite night life, stumbles across a serial killer in action.
We’ve all heard of method actors, those dedicated souls who immerse themselves in the lives of the characters they play to such a degree that they — in their own mind, at least — become that person for the duration of whatever movie they’re filming at the time. Well, Diary of a Serial Killer has, as its hero, not a method actor, but a method journalist in the form of Nelson Keece (Gary Busey) who, in order to gain an insight into the lives of those he writes about, lives as they do while he’s researching and writing his articles. All very dedicated, you might think, but the one tiny flaw of this journalistic technique is that when he was researching the lives of alcoholic down-and-outs he became an alcoholic himself. Who could have seen that coming? Anyway, that was last year. This year, Keece is writing about the lives of transvestites, which gives us the distinctly unappetising experience of seeing the brawny, 6 foot Mr. Busey swanning around in a blonde wig and little black number while he samples the delights of a local transvestite bar. It’s at this point that most right-thinking individuals will reach for the off-button of their remotes, but someone’s got to review this damn thing so I persevered, even though it’s obvious that no so-called serious movie which begins with its hero wearing a dress is going to reach any heights worth hanging around to see…
While investigating the world of the transvestite, Keece witnesses a serial killer called Stefan (Arnold Vosloo — 1492: Conquest of Paradise, Agent Cody Banks) slaying his latest victim in a back alley. When Stefan tracks Keece down it looks like our dress-wearing alcoholic hero is about to meet his maker, but Stefan is intrigued by the fact that he’s a journalist and offers Keece the opportunity to write about him.
The fact that Diary of a Serial Killer has the seed of a good idea at its core makes the finished product all the more disappointing, and it comes as no surprise to learn that more than 15 years after the release of this movie both the film’s writer (Jennifer Badham) and director (Joshua Wallace) have no other writing or directing credits to their name. The fact that Diary of a Serial Killer has some half-way respectable names amongst its cast list might momentarily blind the unwary into believing they’re about to see a decent movie, but that first sight of Busey sporting thick red lipstick and pearls soon sets us straight, and as Diary of a Serial Killer lurches forward from one plot development to the next it becomes painfully apparent that it’s just going to keep getting worse, and the movie’s tagline – Some things are better never written – suddenly acquires a relevance its marketing department surely never intended.
After introducing us to Keece and Stefan, the movie looks in on the wholly impotent cop team of Haynes (Michael Madsen – Reservoir Dogs) and Laroue (Reno Wilson). These two dweebs are clearly no smarter than Keece, and it’s obvious that they only have a part in Diary of a Serial Killer because, well, it’s a movie about a serial killer, right? Every movie about a serial killer has to have a cop or two. But these two, well, they just do nothing. Literally nothing. Madsen, who looks as though he’s seriously peeved at having to appear in this mess, amuses himself by seeing how cool and moody he can look — apart, that is, from when the script calls for him to wear a flat cap for no reason other than to give his partner a chance to take the piss out of him. There’s another scene in which Laroue complains bitterly about Haynes always looking down on him, but that, like Haynes’ back story of once having had a daughter who was murdered by a serial killer, serves no purpose other than to fill out the movie’s running time. The prospect of Madsen and Busey in the same movie has the potential to produce a few fireworks but, incredibly, they don’t share one scene in the entire movie.
It’s difficult to find anything positive to say about Diary of a Serial Killer. Wallace’s direction at least fails to annoy, but it lacks any flair and can be described only as competent at best. Having said that, he allows the musical score to frequently overwhelm the dialogue so that it’s difficult to hear what’s being said. Of course, considering the quality of that dialogue, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s still annoying. Busey’s performance is of a quality commensurate with that of an actor whose once promising talent dissipated long before he reached this stage in his career, while Julia Campbell as his long-suffering wife has nothing to do other than bide her time until she’s inevitably called upon to fall foul of Stefan. Arnold Vosloo, at least, manages to rise above the z-grade dialogue to give Stefan some character, but because of the shallowness of the writing that blights the entire movie, even his perpetual smarminess grows annoying after a while.
(Reviewed 30th April 2014)