I am often uneasy about a film’s probability for success before I actually sit down to view it. Having been a victim of literally thousands of bottom of the barrel borefests, it’s increasingly difficult to get worked up about something that doesn’t even look good on paper. The bright side to this is that I am quite often happily surprised when a film doesn’t live up to my increasingly low expectations. However, one filmmaker has the distinction of proving time and time again, that my fears are not only warranted but that they have been woefully underestimated. The displeasure of watching a film from German director Ulli Lommel must be something akin to being slowly eaten alive by fire ants.
Director Ulli Lommel may have studied under the brilliant and insane Rainer Werner Fassbinder, but it has become increasingly apparent over the years that none of Fassbinder’s magnificent edge and insight has rubbed off on Lommel. With no true sense of the outrageous and satirical elements that made Fassbinder’s melodramas so provoking, Lommel is nothing more than a man who endeavors to be controversial simply for the sake of controversiality.
Having directed some 30 films since the release of his only notable feature, 1980’s Boogeyman, has not helped to endear Lommel into the world’s cinematic conscience. If anything it has become even more evident that he is getting worse with each subsequent feature. Often times Lommel forgoes plot entirely, turning every film he makes into a character study, as if that qualifies the feature as something more that mere exploitation.
I fear that having to explain the contents of Green River Killer will offer the viewer some hope that the film has a coherent nature, so I must, in all good consciousness state that this is simply not the case.
Between 1982 and 1998 Gary Leon Ridgway murdered approximately 50 young women in the greater Seattle area. Ridgway often picked up his victims who were prostitutes or runaways along the highway. In 2001, after conclusive DNA testing, Gary Ridgway plead guilty to the killings and was sentenced to 48 consecutive life sentences with no possibility of parole.
A film adaptation of the Green River Killings would seem from the get go to be a fascinating tale of a man who lived a seemingly normal life, with his wife and child, only to stun the nation, having been exposed as one of the most prolific serial killers in history.
Under the master incompetence of Lommel, the Ridgway killings are turned into a 1970’s-drive-in-double-feature-slasher-flic that ignores almost all of the aspects of the killings, including the motive and the settings. In an attempt to bump up the shock value, Lommel intersperses strange and graphic depictions of an autopsy in addition to actual footage of Ridgeway’s taped confessions. What the audience is subjected to is 88 minutes of hell, delivered in a nonsensical barrage of imagery, butchery and sex, which should not even qualify as appealing viewing for hardcore fans of serial killer lore.
In some sense, it almost appears that Lommel is attempting to enter the mind of Ridgway and play it out on screen as a valid art piece. I submit, that if this is the director’s intention his level of success or failure could only be measured by a man who will never see the light of day.
As Lommel continues to run blindly after the goal of being the most prolific director since his mentor, the international film scene has surly not seen the last of the living hell that is a Ulli Lommel film.