REVIEWS: Docs / Other films, Video — October 30, 2011 at 5:16 pm

REVIEW: Peter, portrait of a killer (2011) + trailer

Feature films about serial killers are interesting to watch, because you never know how a particular filmmaker/director is going to approach the subject.

I’ve seen both documentaries (most interesting of which was the one about Ted Bundy), and feature films (Michael Rooker as Henry in “Portrait of a Serial Killer” takes the cake), I’ve rarely heard about Peter Sutcliffe, and now I watched a movie on him – “Peter, Portrait of a Killer”.

Sutcliffe is a British serial killer, who was dubbed the “Yorkshire Ripper”. Back in 1981, Sutcliffe was convicted of murdering 13 women, and attacking 7 other people. As far as I know, Sutcliffe is still serving his numerous life sentences.

Now, as far as the movie goes, I have mixed feelings now that I’ve watched it. Walt Kissack looks like a living copy of young Sutcliffe, so I have to admit, he fit in the role perfectly.

Director of the film Skip Kite seems to be the newcomer, as, according to IMDB, this is his only film credit…I wonder, why he decided to start off by making a serial killer film? Anyway, let’s move on…

The film seems like a mix of shot scenes, and documentary footage (of psychiatrists, Sutcliffe’s father, and other), and has this surreal touch you can’t really understand up until the end.

A lot of things in Sutcliffe’s life story are not covered in the film, such as his killings, his life in prison, and numerous assaults he survived.

Maybe, the film was shot this way due to budget constraints, maybe director Skip Kite wanted the film to be as close to being real as possible (by not shooting the “killing scenes”), and by thus inserting all this archive footage – remained a mystery to me.

But as much drama as it tries to be, there’s a lack of any action at all. We get to see a scene where Peter is gearing up, taking weapons in a toilet, but we never see him kill anyone.

Throughout the whole film, Sutcliffe sits in bars, talks to his doctor in prison, and in between we see the archive footage of various people talking about him.

And, if you’re wondering, what made Sutcliffe go on a killing spree and murder prostitutes – “God told me to clean the streets of filth”. Go figure.

Another good thing about this film is the soundtrack, very moving, very fitting. Other than that, and solid acting, the film doesn’t give a big insight on Sutcliffe’s life.

As far as I know, films wise, Sutcliffe is not really that popular among other real-life serial killers, so you might want to check the film out at least once. Think of it as a mix of documentary with feature film.

However, I must add – the film does drag in the middle, and there isn’t much going on, so you might as well get bored. Trailer for the film is below.




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  1. Although largely unknown in the States, Peter Sutcliffe was/is notorious in Britain; his reign of terror lasted five years and caused much fear, unrest and public anger and he remains our most infamous Serial Killer – if there’s a shortage of feature films about him it’s because over here there isn’t the market for trashy, true-crime movies that there is in North America, such things are seen as being in poor taste (which is why this particular film sank without a trace).

    There is however a two-part television miniseries from 2000 called ‘This is Personal’ which covers the case from the POV of the Police and is far better than this piece of junk and the closing weeks of the investigation is used as the basis for the middle part of the Red Riding Trilogy ‘The Year of Our Lord 1980’ based on David Peace’s fictional novels both of which only feature Sutcliffe in their closing moments and don’t dramatise the killings themselves but are more about the climate of fear he created and the impact it had on ordinary peoples lives.

    BTW – The whole “God told me to do it” thing was just Sutcliffe’s attempt at pleading insanity and getting a lighter sentence, he is in reality a sick, perverted man who gained sexual gratification from mutilating women and has since boasted to his captors how he cheated the system by pretending to be insane.

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