A Killer Next Door, 2020

©  North Bank Entertainment 

A film about John Emil List (1925 – 2008), A Killer Next Door is (almost) an unsettling and a crude audio-visual analysis of a ma… monster, who, in 1971, massacred his family, his eighty-four year old mother, who he deemed “too heavy to move” in a confession sent to his pastor, Mrs. List, Helen, forty-six, and his three children, thirteen year old Frederick, John Jr., fifteen and his sixteen-year old daughter, Patricia, with a single shot to the head with a 9mm Steyr 1912 and a Colt .22 caliber revolver.

After assuming a new identity, Robert Peter Clark (Bob), he settled in Denver in 1972, took up an accounting job, and married a lady in 1985, who he met at the local church, Delores Miller.

List was apprehended after a passage of eighteen long years once his case file was broadcasted by America’s Most wanted and a neighbor called in after watching the program.

“The quieter the street, the darker the secret”

The film is poorly made, hackneyed, with trite dialogue, which is also extremely predictable, with low standard performances by almost all but William Meredith, who plays the killer to steely disposition and a truly sinister presence, even as he sips tea while watching television and sitting on his favorite chair. However, the film wastes that one good thing going for it, with sub-par, pedestrian filmmaking, which could pass for a thesis project that ends up earning an F-grade. The film has zero redemption value and does nothing to add to the harrowing tale of John List, quite the contrary.

Inadequately told, with a narrative so loose it can come off at the seams any moment, and sometimes does when the – Rear Window – girl’s father cranks the volume knob on the overacting to full, and the filmmakers take creative liberties where creative liberties are not to be taken.

Contrived, short-sighted, with z-grade perceptivity and zero keenness (it sure seems like it), Door is far from entertaining and nor is it informative neither does it help in figuring out how the event is perceived in the minds of viewers who have, by now, watched plenty “based on a true story” films and to derive reverberation and culmination of a very sick mind. Plus it does not add to the serial killer genre like a film based on true events ought to, with a TV movie sensibilities and an extremely sluggish screenplay.

The one good thing about Door is the short running-time, which appeared long enough for this pilgrim to keep checking the video progress bar and it seemed to be stuck (between a hard place a flat screenplay by director Andrew Jones himself) at a point when Mr. Perfect is mowing the lawn in a full formal, three-piece suit.

A low-grade and a graceless drama, Andrew Jones can benefit by learning from Joe Berlinger and his brilliant and transcending narratives; Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, 2019, a film about Ted Bundy, which is dark as midnight and doubly effective, compared to this foot-traveler of a film, and an inept drama, a film that is devoid of any social context or depth and diluting the perspective by indolently recreating the sensational events that are already a matter of public record.

By the way, List is said to have inspired popular characters like Keyser Soze, of The Usual Suspects fame, among others, which the script requires to be so evil and intimidating that it starts off by ‘the guy’ killing off his own family. I mean there’s hardly anything more disturbing and shocking than that.

Stay far away.

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