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Confessions of a Serial Killer


  • BBFC 15
  • R-Rated
Release: Apr 12, 2022 - Author: Mike Lowrey - Translator: Mike Lowrey - external link: IMDB

Confessions of a Serial Killer is a thrilling genre representative of its horror subgenre because it manages a successful balancing act between a character-driven portrayal and a drastic fictional staging of the acts committed. The film makes heavy use of the case of Henry Lee Lucas, who at times claimed to have committed over 250 murders, thus captivating not only the public but also the police. This was also due to the fact that his countless interrogations gave rise to a veritable judicial scandal, because for some of the police officers Lucas' willing confessions were just what they needed to put a whole pile of previously unsolved murder cases on file and pin them on him. Lucas had little to lose at this point and enjoyed various comforts due to his willingness to cooperate. It was not until years later that persistent journalists and advancing DNA technology ensured that many of the murders attributed to Lucas could not be his doing.

Confessions of a Serial Killer, reviewed here, does not focus on these later events, however; instead, it brings Lucas' accounts to life in various flashbacks. Atmospherically, this is dense, as the empathy-less, laconic narration in the interrogation room interchanges with murders that are staged in a merciless and emotionless manner, yet do not break style with the rest of the film because the character drawing is successful. Actor Robert A. Burns, who was responsible for the artistic direction in Texas Chainsaw Massacre and only sporadically acted in front of the camera, also resembles the real Lucas visually and stands out with his casual characterization of this killer. Director John Dwyer, who could certainly boast about this film, deliberately did not do so at the time and acted under the pseudonym Mark Blair, because at the time he was busy with the script for the family-friendly Disney film Captain Ron with Kurt Russell and was worried about his reputation in studio circles. Since he was no longer active in the film business after that, however, he apparently could have saved himself this step.

Made in 1985, a year before Henry - Portrait of a Serial Killer, which is much better known today, Confessions of a Serial Killer could have managed to gain a similar reputation. It failed not because of the quality, but because of producer Roger Corman. His company Concorde - New Horizons bought the film as the first third-party production and treated it like a stepchild. Not only was it left to languish in the archives unreleased until 1992, but when it was released it was given the cover that is still present today, which Corman thought was a good idea as an homage to the 1991 hit The Silence of the Lambs. A profoundly stupid move that didn't do the film justice. Except for a lackluster release on VHS, it was unavailable in the US for decades, further damaging the film's notoriety. Several other countries also released the film, but they are said to have had varying degrees of censorship cuts.

England probably takes the cake here, as the DVD contains a version that has been cut by more than ten minutes. Seeking a BBFC 15 rating for this intensely brutal film is quite absurd, and the cuts are correspondingly extensive. Since the original US producers are now back in possession of the distribution rights, Amazon Prime fortunately offers the uncut R-rated version as video-on-demand in HD and one can only hope that other territories will follow suit or that physical media will also be released.

Comparison between the heavily cut British BBFC 15 DVD (by Addictive Films) and the uncut R-rated version (as VOD by Electric Entertainment).

36 cuts, 3 scenes with alternate footage = 624.68 sec. or about 10 minutes 25 seconds

0:08:07: The attack with the knife is missing. The woman's throat is slit and Hawkins pushes her against the car from behind.
17,36 Sec.

0:15:31: Hawkins hits the prostitute on the head and rips off her bra, exposing her breasts. As he does so, she can be heard screaming and the square peg is seen whizzing towards the floor one more time in a slapping motion.
5,8 Sec.

0:15:39: Shortly after, he can be seen kneeling over her and brutalizing her with more scantling blows.
18,24 Sec.

0:16:20: In the English version, Hawkins' sentence has been shortened. He says that the murder of the prostitute was exciting for him, but not - as in the Uncut version - that he had to pull over with the car and then satisfy himself first.
5,88 Sec.

0:18:22: One of the men Hawkins' mother brought home rubs Hawkins' sister's doll in his lap.
4,6 Sec.

0:18:41: The men begin to undress the mother.
4 Sec.

0:18:47: And continuing.
7,84 Sec.

0:18:58: Hawkins' mother continues to amuse herself with the men, angrily flinging the doll toward her crying daughter.
3,6 Sec.

0:19:07: The lovemaking continues, Hawkins tells off-camera that the men treated her quite roughly at times, but that she liked it. Then a shot is heard from the room into which she pushed the father in a wheelchair. The mother goes over, irritated, and sees that he has killed himself by a shot to the head. She takes the gun and looks confused, while the young Hawkins also goes into the room and sees his dead father there. Under interrogation, he says that he didn't understand all that about the blood until later.

Interesting aspect here: Since we learn nothing of the father's suicide in the English version, the viewer gets a distorted picture here of the disorienting influences on Hawkins as a child, yet here it seems as if it is only his mother's sexual behavior acted out in front of him.
34,28 Sec.

0:21:09: Hawkins covers the arm of the corpse in his car.
3,76 Sec.

0:28:28: Shots of the SM magazine are missing.
4,4 Sec.

0:30:15: The rebellious Hitchhiker continues to be held in a chokehold by Hawkins's compadre Moon.
2,52 Sec.

0:30:19: Moon breaks her neck, Hawkins reports they dumped her body in a field not far away. He said he did not know her name.
12,56 Sec.

0:31:27: Hawkins says about Moon that he wasn't very talkative, but said enough that Hawkins realized Moon was gay. And that they had gone out together on non-working time. Sherriff Gaines makes sure to ask if that means Hawkins and Moon were having sexual relations, to which Hawkins replies in the affirmative that he had tried.
27,76 Sec.

0:37:43: An enormously brutal scene is missing altogether. The audio is turned up loud, Moon grabs a knife from the kitchen drawer and ties the woman's arms and ankles to the bedposts. He then rips off her shirt and pulls down her pants so she's lying on the bed with her rear end exposed. He fires up Hawkins, who grabs some cream or Vaseline from the nightstand and unzips his pants. He mounts the woman and Moon slits her throat bloody in parallel, asking Hawkins how he liked the ride. She shakes her legs in agony until she eventually dies.
101,24 Sec.

0:42:03: Gaines asks Hawkins for details about what happened at the murdered woman's house that only a killer could know. Hawkins considers and then asks if Gaines means something like Moon's habit of defecating on the floor at some crime scenes after the deed is done. Gaines asks if that was Moon, to which Hawkins answers in the affirmative.
35,16 Sec.

0:45:53: The psychiatrist goes on to say that Hawkins can only have sex if it is degrading to the other person - whether man, woman, or corpse.
6,4 Sec.

0:51:06: Hawkins suggests to Moon that they could call their own X-rated magazine "Cunt Killer." Moon likes the idea.
12,72 Sec.

0:53:12: When Moon shoots the gas station attendant in cold blood, the British version is zoomed in so you can't see the gaping exit wound.
No time difference

BBFC 15R-Rated

0:54:39: Gaines looks at a Polaroid photo of Hawkins holding a woman and a knife. The woman's back has been cut with the knife, blood can be seen. The British version instead fades in Hawkins for a shorter time, looking curiously waiting to see what exhibits Gaines is looking at.
2,48 Sec.

0:54:54: More Polaroids of victims are seen, including one with Hawkins and his fiancée grinning as she sits next to a female victim.
8,88 Sec.

0:55:08: Again, the Polaroid of Hawkins with the woman injured in the back. The British version instead recycles earlier shots of Gaines surveying and Hawkins watching, so it actually runs slightly longer here.
-1,16 Sec.

0:59:16: The car pulls over to the side of the road at night, the passenger door opens, and the bloodied Jasmine half falls out. In between, the Polaroid camera flashes, then the body is pulled into the bushes and the drive continues.
46,24 Sec.

1:01:43: Hawkins looks at a photo of African Americans and says that he and Moon avoided them as their victims. In doing so, he uses the N-word.
8,96 Sec.

1:02:26: Hawkins talks about how they picked up the male hitchhiker because Moon suggested they have sex with him and then kill him. He says that didn't work out, which is why he broke his neck. They would then have cut him into pieces in the car and thrown portions of him out the window at intervals. Hawkins finds one detail particularly amusing: they took $50 from the dead man and went out for breakfast. At the first bite, Moon had thanked "Steve," wherever he was now.
57,84 Sec.

1:13:46: A tracking shot of Monica in a deck chair is missing, probably because she is bare-chested.
5,48 Sec.

1:13:54: Indeed, her bare breasts were the "problem" for the British version. When Monica stands up, startled, the British version is now zoomed in.
No time difference

BBFC 15R-Rated

1:16:57: As the family with the two little girls is faded in, Moon is asking Hawkins if the woman wouldn't be something for him. Hawkins asks back which one Moon means. Moon giggles, which can also be seen in the British version, but we don't know why.
7,8 Sec.

1:18:29: Completely casually and arbitrarily, Hawkins shoots two girls standing on the side of the road from a moving car.
32,56 Sec.

1:26:30: Doris first looks at the gun longer and then discovers several more bloody machetes and knives under the mattress.
12,8 Sec.

1:27:10: She discovers a bloodstain on the floor, then a bloody bra attached to the wall, and then another bloodstain. She then searches through a dresser.
17,96 Sec.

1:28:55: How Molly stabs Doris in the abdomen has been cut.
1,36 Sec.

1:29:02: Molly stabs Doris in the back several times. Doris is able to grab a shoe and hit Molly with it, but as she crawls away from the bed, Molly stabs her in the calf.
16,36 Sec.

1:29:21: More scuffling between Molly and Doris.
9,4 Sec.

1:34:25: Monica is seen half naked.
12,56 Sec.

1:35:11: This censorship takes on absurd overtones, as a minute at a time is missing here, because Monica can be several times seen with her bottom bare and once bare-breasted as she gets dressed.
60,76 Sec.

1:38:35: Molly cuts Hawkins' forearm during a scuffle.
0,96 Sec.

1:38:41: Hawkins shoots Molly three times, looks at his wounded arm, then shoots her again as she is already dead on the ground.
4,6 Sec.

1:43:18: Monica's severed head can be seen in the trunk.
10,72 Sec.