H.H. HOLMES - AMERICA'S FIRST...
Reviewed by: Andre Manseau
Tony Jay (Narrator)
What's it about
This documentary details the life and crimes of America’s first serial killer, H.H Holmes, from his humble beginnings to his death by hanging.
Is it good movie?
The story of Henry Holmes is an interesting one, so the filmmakers really had a good foundation to work from before they began to make this film. The subject matter which details his life is really fascinating stuff, and the most eerie thing about it is that things haven’t changed all that much, even today. The man was clearly a deviant, someone with a truly twisted brain who seemed to be a cold and calculating individual who killed to satisfy an urge. It seemed to be a hobby for him. His life growing up seemed so normal, he was born Herman Mudgett, and at a young age completed medical school and was a proficient doctor. He seemed like just about everyone else, except his hobby was killing.
He didn’t just kill either- he perfected a system. He assumed different identities and conned people out of money and property, until bringing things to a head in 1893 when he constructed a mass structure that appeared like a home, but was really an elaborate place to kill people. The guy literally opened up this hotel-type establishment for exposition-goers, but would routinely kill them off by boiling them in acid, or using other nasty methods. Then, he’d bleach their bones and skill their skeletons to medical facilities!
There is plenty of information to be learned in this documentary, and the film is intelligently put together, but the only thing I can’t stand is the “re-enactment” footage. Newspaper clippings and old photos are effective, but someone with a distinct American pizza guy accent pretending to be Holmes while using an “old film” filter in a movie editing program just makes me ache. But I suppose that’s just a personal preference.
Video / Audio
Video is here in 1.33:1 full screen, and looks okay, like something you’d see on TV.
Audio comes in the form of Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround or Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, both of which sounded just fine.
The Audio Commentary by Filmmaker John Borowski is absolutely boring. I’m sorry, but the pace and voice was so monotone that I seemed to be less interested than this guy was when he recorded it. I’m sorry guys, this was rough. The guy just narrates what’s going on.
The Making of H.H. Holmes is a short, 20 minute piece which is actually great stuff. You won’t find a bunch of cast and crew saying how great this film is, but rather you’ll see how the whole project was put together. You’ll enter recording studios, and even see Borowski directing some of the aforementioned awful “re-enactment” footage. This is how it’s done, an actual making of instead of just your standard EPK.
The outtakes aren’t really outtakes, but rather an extended version of a scene which gives more insight into how forensics were not really developed back in Holmes’ day, and how the authorities eventually captured them.
A photo gallery called The Story Continues details the time that has passed between Holmes’ time and the present day, showing what locations looked like in his day, and our own. Neat.
You’ll also find a small gallery of photos and poster designs, and a few trailers too.
Hollywood couldn’t come up with a guy like H.H Holmes if they tried, and i’ll bet that the chances of making a decent film about his life would be slim to none. With that being said, if you’re interested in serial killers and would really like to get into the how questions rather than the why questions, then you’ll want to pick this up. It’s engaging and genuinely creepy. Give it a shot.