For three years filmmaker John Borowski worked on this documentary that focuses on the man many have called the first "serial killer" in American history, H.H. Holmes. And thanks to well researched facts, recreations that are staged extremely well and don't overdo it, and a pace that keeps you interested; Borowski has created a film that works better than any A&E Biography could hope to.
For those of you unfamiliar with the man, H.H. Holmes was a con man, a schemer, and a murderous being who graduated from medical school in the late 1800's and proceeded to build a hotel that was filled with secret chambers and torture rooms. In 1893 he started to rent out rooms to visitors to World's Fair in Chicago only for them to disappear without a trace. His murdering spree also included a business partner, children of the woman he'd seduced for insurance money, and various others. His crimes have gone down in the annals of history as some of the most hideous and inhuman acts ever committed.
Rather than focus merely on the crimes, Borowski takes us through Holmes' life from his humble beginnings as Herman Midgett (his birth name) all the way to his eventual capture, trial, and hanging. He crafts an engrossing story that doesn't take sides and gives you enough facts to get a good picture at just how devious and mentally unstable his subject was. Throw into it a great style of blending photographs, newspaper archives, live action sequences, and suitably strong narration by Tony Jay (a veteran of many Disney cartoons) and you have a documentary that at times manages to unnerve you more than any fictional horror movie could ever hope to.
If you're interested in the topic of serial killers, and you want to know more about a man who surprisingly is more obscure than you'd think, then H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer is highly recommended.
Borowski is currently working on his next feature, a documentary on the even more disturbed Albert Fish.
Visit the Official Website for more information and to order. (Chris Hartley, 11/10/04)
Directed By: John Borowski.
Written By: John Borowski.
Picture Ratio: Full Frame.
Picture Quality: For an independently released effort this video quality here is pretty close to flawless. The picture is crisp, there's no compression issues I noticed, and it just looks great.
Extras: Borowski has also seen fit to include a good batch of extras with an excellent "making of" featurette (that bests Hollywood releases simply because it was much more enjoyable than their promotional pablum), outtakes/deleted scenes, trailers, a poster gallery, a photo/text gallery about the films locations, bios on Borowski and narrator Jay, and a highly listenable commentary track.