Real life is more horrifying than you can imagine.
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When I was younger, the idea of watching a documentary was far from my idea of a good time. I mean, who wants to voluntarily learn something? Yeah, I was a dumb kid. But with documentaries like this one, how can you not be interested? It’s almost enough that the content is mind bogglingly awful – but to know without a doubt that this is all true makes for a true horror film.
Writer/director John Borowski holds no punches. You’ve heard of the awful letter Fish sent the mother of one of his victims? Borowski lets you see and hear the entire twisted letter. It’s one thing really to hear of the legend. It’s also just fine knowing specific details. It is an entirely different experience to hear Fish’s words come to life. Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss, and Fish took that away from Mrs. Budd. More than just losing her child, Fish ups the ante by cruelly describing in vivid detail exactly what happened to little Grace.
Borowski presents us with a comprehensive account of Fish’s crime spree, with just enough background information to enhance the creep factor. Did you know that this man who tortured, murdered and cannibalized children had six of his own? Boom. Borowski does not rely on exaggeration, because how the hell can you exaggerate the already incredible? He uses the information to set the tone and lets the story do all the work.
Unfortunately there were a few less than ideal choices made. In particular, the inclusion of interviews with Joe Coleman was unnecessarily irritating. Coleman reeks of a man desperate for attention. Any kind of attention. He sputters nonsense throughout, trying to convince the viewer that he’s some sort of eccentric genius. He isn’t. His justification for theft is pathetic. Knowingly walking away with a priceless artifact (in this case, Fish’s letter to Mrs. Budd) does not mean it was meant for you. It wasn’t fate. You are not the guardian of coolness. It just means you used a poor woman’s honest mistake as an excuse to steal. And for what? So he can brag to everybody about the letter? It belongs in a museum, not in Joe Coleman’s Odditorium. That was about the moment when I went from being slightly annoyed to wanting to punch him through the screen.
Despite Coleman and some re-enactments that don’t quite portray the true horror, this film ultimately does what a lot of films can’t. It leaves a lasting impression. The sensational perversions of Fish may be entertaining to some, and it will most likely be disturbing to others, but either way you will never forget what you learned. Does the subject matter help in making this documentary interesting? Absolutely. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that Borowski has presented us with a film that shocks, entertains, and informs. It’s comforting to know he is making these films for love of the subject matter and not just another cash cow for shock’s sake.Have You Read...?