(director: Stephen Kay; screenwriters: Tom Towler & Donald Martin teleplay/book by Robert Beattie; cinematographer: Bobby Bukowski; editor: Mark Stevens; music: Tree Adams; cast: Robert Forster (Jason Magida), Michael Michelle (Detective Ellen Baines), Maury Chaykin (Robert Beattie), Gregg Henry (Dennis Rader), Mimi Kuzyk (Rachel Magida), Donna Goodhand (Mrs. Rader), John Dusworth (Rader’s Pastor), Martha Irving (Mary Baxter); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Randy Sutter/Richard Fischoff; Sony Pictures Television/CBS; 2005)

A simplistic and cheaply made-for-television movie, that’s only so-so.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A simplistic and cheaply made-for-television movie, that’s only so-so. It’s chaotically filmed as a police procedural tale about nailing a Wichita serial killer after his case became cold when he stopped his murder spree for a number of years. The fact-based story was filmed in Nova Scotia. Unfortunately the facts do not always seem to be accurate with reality, as directed by Stephen Kay (“Isolation”/”Blue-Eyed Butcher”). It looks like a steely-eyed docudrama, but without any interesting camera work or quality production values. The highlight of the film is Gregg Henry’s chilling portrait of the serial killer, as he plays the type of a deviant you might never notice because he’s so ordinary looking. The biography is based on a book by Robert Beattie, and the teleplay is by Tom Towler and Donald Martin. From 1974 to 1991, the current local dog catcher Dennis Rader (Gregg Henry) nicknamed himself the BTK Killer (Bind Torture Kill) and terrorized Wichita, Kansas, with 10 brutal murders attributed to him. He was arrested 31 years later thanks to a lucky break, and after confessing received a life sentence without parole. When writer Robert Beattie (Maury Chaykin) in 2005 published his book about the BTK unsolved murder case, it triggered a response from the dormant BTK. Fictionalized detective Jason Magida (Robert Forster) and female detective Baines (Michael Michelle) open up the case again and bait the egotistical psychopath to give them a signal that he’s still alive. When he uses the printer in his Lutheran church to send a TV station a message that he’s back, the cops are able to trace it and nab him before he can strike again. Using flashbacks we follow the killer on trial and at the start of his murder spree in 1974 and how he relates to his clueless wife (Donna Goodhand). Aside from how brutal were the murders and how much he frightened the community, we learn little about what makes him tick or his motives and only see someone deranged, pathetic and evil.