Behind the deceivingly plain title, The Gray Man is another phenomenal movie about serial killers. This one is based on the life of one of the most perverse and sick individuals that have ever lived. Of course, we are talking about Albert Fish. The facts that he was an elderly man, and that he committed these atrocious acts in the 1920s are something that just adds to the mystery and extent of his crimes. He was a cannibal, sadist, masochist, killer, and a deeply religious man. That sounds about right, doesn’t it?
By focusing on the “human” aspect of the story, without much gore and violence, The Gray Man creates this really unnerving atmosphere. You know what this man is capable of and what he usually ends up doing and just want to scream, warning people casually interacting with him. His appearance and mannerisms are such that you wouldn’t think he would ever do you harm. Unsettling and deeply disturbing, this is one of those movies that will stay with you. And not because of flashy visuals and gruesome scenes but this sense of evil and despair.
Patrick Bauchau’s haunting and very subdued performance blew me away. It fits so well with the tone and the atmosphere of the movie. Jack Conley was also good as Detective William King. The movie sticks to the real story about Fish, although avoiding the shots of his killings. It rather uses suspense and that eerie feeling that something bad is going to happen to get the viewer engaged.
What, engaged, I meant traumatized. Delightfully subversive to almost all of the ideologies, The Gray Man is a small movie about a big subject with a distinct noir vibe. I am certain that there will more movies about this despicable serial killer in the future but this one will do just fine for now. It reminded me of another great movie exploring a similar subject Citizen X.
The cinematography was good along with production values and this is not some cheap commercial garbage trying to take advantage of the story. It’s a carefully constructed character study exploring the events that happened almost a century ago. It’s also a period movie showing us how was life back in the twenties and thirties of the last century. If you’re a fan of serial killer movies you might find the change of setting refreshing. We don’t have computers, DNA, or any of the modern tools for investigation. Just your wits and a drive for justice. Available on BluRay with superior picture quality, I recommend you check it out.
There are a couple of documentaries about him if you want to know more and I have included Wikipedia links for Fish and another serial killer, H.H. Holmes. Fish’s letter to the mother of Grace Budd is so haunting that I think I will remember it for the rest of my life. Holmes is another example of a serial killer that society has swept under its rug because of the sheer scale of his malevolence. It’s easy to rationalize Son of Sam or Ted Bundy, but try wrapping your head around Holmes’s Murder Castle…
Director: Scott L. Flynn
Writers: Lee Fontanella, Colleen Cochran
Cast: Patrick Bauchau, Jack Conley, John Aylward, Silas Weir Mitchell, Vyto Ruginis, Mollie Milligan, Lexi Ainsworth, Ben Hall