Starring Scott Anthony Leet, Cole Williams and Dusty Sorg

Directed by John Murlowski

Written by David Birke

E1 Entertainment

Low budget movies based on the exploits of real-life serial killers don’t tend to attract the finest talents. (I’m looking at you, Ulli Lommel.) So the fact that Freeway Killer, while not a revelation, is far from the abortion it could have been came as a welcome relief.

For the record, the Freeway Killer was one William Bonin. Born in 1947, he was raised by a gambler father and alcoholic mother who would leave him in the company of his pedophile uncle. Teenage mischief led Bonin into juvenile detention where he was raped by the older boys. After a stint in Vietnam, he found himself in and out of jail for years, having evinced a penchant for kidnapping and sexually assaulting young men. Taking a job as a truck driver, he found himself in California where his predilections escalated to several rape-murders, all of young men, often with the aid of his accomplice, Vernon Butts, by all descriptions an odd young man who described himself as a wizard. Bonin’s killing spree, with Butts and other accomplices, finally ended in 1980 when a tip led police to Bonin, who was apprehended while trying to murder another young man. Sixteen years after his arrest, in 1996, Bonin was finally executed – the first prisoner in America to die by lethal injection.

Freeway Killer presents Bonin (Leet) in the midst of his rampage, comfortable with his accomplice Butts (Sorg). But their odd, symbiotic friendship/romance is thrown off kilter when Bonin picks up wayward youth Kyle (Williams) and, instead of killing him, decides to introduce him to his murderous lifestyle. This ménage à trois marks the beginning of the end of Bonin’s crime spree as he spirals into ever greater murderous rages until he finds himself in the sights of a detective (Michael Rooker: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer).

The real William Bonin

While its budget prevents Freeway Killer from looking period, the strength of its performances makes it authentically worth watching (despite its current 4.7/10 rating on the IMDb). Leet evinces a slimy, evil grin, and is considerably more handsome than the real-life Bonin, but makes for an interesting villain. His recruitment of like-minded, sordid souls is believable given his charisma and overwhelming attitude. And kudos to Dusty Sorg for his well-rounded performance as Butts; we don’t exactly sympathize with this strange, sick man, but the fact that we almost do, given his crimes, is worthy of praise. Genre vet Michael Rooker’s turn as the detective who captures Bonin is particularly welcome, especially given his own landmark portrait of killer Henry Lee Lucas in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

What the movie soft pedals, perhaps to make it more palatable to a wider audience, is Bonin’s homosexuality. There’s an overt homoerotic vibe to the man’s relationships with both his victims and his accomplices – we get what Bonin’s about even if it’s never stated or seen – and we never see him rape his victim. (Thank heavens for small mercies, perhaps.) The female hitchhiker on the DVD cover art, though, is misleading, as Bonin never targeted female victims.

Screenwriter David Burke has written a couple of other serial killer films (2003’s Gacy and 2002’s Dahmer), and he does Bonin justice as a character. Perhaps trying to humanize a monster is immoral, but Burke does manage to make Bonin real – albeit sick, twisted and reprehensible. That may be a bad thing, but he has done it well.

Rating: 3.5/5

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