Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
The Hands That Bleed
Dennis Rader (Kane Hodder) seems to be the husband and father every man dreams of becoming. He has a loving family, is a compliance officer for the city, takes pride in being the leader of the boy scouts, and has just become president at his local church. He is a religious man who loves his family and works hard to support the ones he loves, but there’s a sinister side to Dennis that he keeps hidden from his wife and two daughters; a dark side that’s capable of unspeakable things. Dennis is actually a serial killer who has an infatuation with women, but he never just kills them since that would be too quick and easy. He has these sadistic urges that can only be satisfied by tying up his victims and tormenting them before the initial slaughter. He binds them, tortures them, and kills them; Dennis Rader is the B.T.K. killer and he’s been doing this for decades in hopes of getting caught.
If you approach B.T.K. with low expectations, then you may be pleasantly surprised. The film is based on the actual B.T.K. murders, which took place between 1974 and 1991 in Sedgwick County, Kansas. Written and directed by Michael Feifer (who also wrote and directed Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield, which also starred Kane Hodder and was also based on an actual serial killer), B.T.K. is actually fairly brutal. There’s a scene where Dennis is choking an escort who ran out on him early on in the film. With his hands around her throat, Dennis begins describing what she’s going through as she dies. The method in which the sequence is shot as the camera goes out of focus, the sound fades, and the screen slowly turns to black. It is the most memorable sequence in the film due to the way it captures and executes Dennis’ horrific hobby.
As a whole, B.T.K. doesn’t make an effort to surpass the reputation of a direct to video film. The dialogue is lackluster at best and the acting is awful even for a horror film; Dennis’ wife and two daughters are unbearable. Kane Hodder manages to somehow keep this train wreck afloat, but it’s difficult to say whether he has exceptional acting talent or just seems that way when he’s thrown into a cast filled with tone deaf donkeys. Hodder seems to be the only one who knows how to properly show emotion and his dialogue isn’t flat. He is heartless and merciless when he kills, but his speech near the end of the film is suddenly heartfelt. Hodder is known for his representation of Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th films and Victor Crowley in the Hatchet franchise. He has made a career out of doing stunt work and playing these beefy monsters who barely have any dialogue, It’s surprising to see that there’s some legit acting chops behind the hockey mask and underneath countless layers of makeup.
Horror films are known to have their fair share of terrible acting. Fans don’t usually see horror for great acting or even a great story; they’re looking for that sense of dread and inventive kills that provide terror and impressive gore. The biggest issue with B.T.K. isn’t the acting, but the confusing ending. It’s as if they couldn’t think of a way to end the film, so they edited it in a way that made it seem like the ending sequence was stuck in a loop before jumping back to some scenes from early on in the film; it’s more frustrating than the ending to Oliver Stone’s Savages. It’s an extremely cheap way to end a film. Maybe something is said that was missed during the initial viewing that ties this hodgepodge method of filmmaking together with its poor execution, but it feels like a cop out more than anything else.
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B.T.K. is an average direct to video horror film, but it may be worth your time based on its surprisingly well-executed kills and a strong performance from Kane Hodder. The film is way more intense than you may be expecting. Hodder aside though, the film suffers from sub-par acting from the rest of the cast and the ending will more than likely leave you scratching your head. B.T.K. isn’t worth a blind buy purchase, but is more like a decent streaming alternative in the middle of the week when you can’t decide what to watch.
B.T.K. is currently available to stream for free on Vudu, is $1.99 on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Google Play, and $3.99 on iTunes. The DVD is on Amazon for $14.98 and eBay for $12.02 with free shipping (brand new) and $4.99 with $4.25 shipping (pre-owned). The film was never released on Blu-ray.
© 2018 Chris Sawin