Happy Face Killer (2014)
The Jesperson Temper.
Happy Face Killer is directed by Rick Bota and written by Richard Christian Matheson. It stars David Arquette, Gloria Reuben, Daryl Shuttleworth, Stefanie von Pfetten and Josh Blacker. Music is by Hal Foxton Beckett and Marc Baril and cinematography by Adam Sliwinski.
This is an interpretation of the real life events surrounding the workings – hunt for – and capture of Canadian serial killer Keith Hunter Jesperson.
It’s one of those bone of contentions with adaptations to screen of real life serial killers, with poetic license etc, that invariably many feel cheated of not getting the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The story of Keith Hunter Jesperson, who would become known as the Happy Face Killer, was not known to me, but when it caught my eye in the TV listings, with Arquette in a serious dramatic role, I had to take a look. Crucially for someone like me who was unaware of the case, it helped me to get more from the viewing experience by reading up on Jesperson after the viewing. I would urge any potential first time viewers to do the same.
The core essence of Jesperson’s crimes and his mindset is correct, but motives and means, and crucially childhood traumas, are sketchy at best. If able to accept the poetic license factor, this is still a very detailed and skin itching take on a man who it is confirmed killed 8 women. The murders are staged expertly by the makers to get the required impact to stun the viewers, the procedural aspects of the investigation, led by FBI Agent Melinda Gand (an excellent Reuben) are insightful and gripping, and Arquette, in spite of not remotely fitting the physique or profile of the real Jesperson, works very hard to convince as a man who could turn murderous by the slightest provocation.
In the pantheon of serial killer movies this is hardly essential stuff, but it is well worth a look and worthy of inspection by those interested in the topic to hand. 6.5/10