(director: Anna Kendrick; screenwriter: Ian MacAllister McDonald; cinematographer: Zach Kuperstein; editors: Andy Canny, Lee Haugen; music: Dan Romber, Mike Tuccillo; cast: Anna Kendrick (Cheryl Bradshaw), Tony Hale (Show Host), Daniel Zovatto (Rodney Alcala), Nicolette Robinson (Laura), Autumn Best (Amy); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Roy Lee, Miri Yoon, J.D. Lifshitz, Raphael Margules; Netflix; 2023)

“That It’s so bizarre and scary, makes for a captivating the truth is stranger-than-fiction story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The actress Anna Kendrick makes her directing debut an interesting one in this sleek, fact-based, powerful serial-killer thriller story set in the 1970s. She also stars in it, giving a perceptive performance. But the film is not well-executed, even if it’s gamely written by Ian MacAllister McDonald as a cautionary tale that has a suspenseful final act and is tense throughout. That It’s so bizarre and scary, makes for a captivating the truth is stranger-than-fiction story. It’s filmed in an oft-putting non-linear way (too distracting with its abrupt moves around different time-zones).

In 1978 the charming, articulate and handsome photographer Rodney Alcala (Daniel Zovatto) appeared on ABC’s popular The Dating Game program. The live program was unaware he was a serial-killer (I guess the lesson here is that you can’t trust the program’s process, vetting or morality). Flashbacks of his killing spree of women in the 1970s, even while the show was airing, shows him in action (it was tough to watch the murders, even if not graphic).

The major portion of the film shows the killer’s one-time appearance on the show.

Cheryl Bradshaw (Anna Kendrick), a shallow and struggling actress from L.A., is the vulnerable contestant who picks him for her date. She reluctantly went on the show because her agent thought it would be good for publicity.

How the dangerous rapist and killer gets caught makes for good theater.

It played at the Toronto Film Festival.


REVIEWED ON 12/14/2023  GRADE: B-