Tales of the Grim Sleeper (2014)


Should you blog angry? Probably not. I hated this film. When I read the synopsis, I saw that it was directed by the same guy who made Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer in 1992. In fact that screened at MIFF in 1992 and that’s probably where I saw it. I remember being fascinated with Aileen Wuornos and having arguments in the uni cafe about her with fellow students. What I had unfortunately forgotten was that I really disliked the filmmaker and his approach to documentary and his subject. It was only as the lights dimmed in the Comedy Theatre and he appeared on screen that I thought, “Shut the front door, it’s Nick Broomfield, I can’t stand Nick Broomfield.”

A quick synopsis and then I’ll give you the 411 about what I didn’t like. Lonnie Franklin Junior was arrested after the DNA of his son was taken and they found a link with DNA left on the bodies of at least 10 black women killed in poor, drug-ridden South LA over the past 25 years. After getting Lonnie’s DNA, they found it was a match and he has now been charged with 10 murders, with another 10 waiting in the wings. So, interesting premise – why did he get away with it for so long, why was he caught accidentally, did the police investigate this as diligently as they might if the women had been white? Broomfield touches on this but this isn’t an investigative documentary, this is not a documentary that is going to be worried about facts.

Broomfield drives around and chats to people. People who knew Lonnie, people who didn’t. Lonnie was a nice guy, Lonnie wouldn’t do that, Lonnie liked women, Lonnie was a bit strange, Lonnie had photos of 170 women in his flat, Lonnie liked to have sex with crack addicts, Lonnie liked to photograph them doing weird things, Lonnie like to torture them a little bit, Lonnie kept having to have his carpets cleaned. The story slowly drifts toward a certainty that Lonnie is the Grim Sleeper because he used to do some strange stuff.

Police ineptitude is touched upon – there were women who were eye witnesses back 20 years before who identified his street and a likeness of him was drawn, but nothing was done or said. The most eloquent speakers in the film are the women who advocate for greater justice for the black victims of crimes, they are the ones to give this film context and gravitas. At the end of the film, several victims who escaped Lonnie but never went to the police are interviewed by Broomfield, and this is moving, but somehow, after all the assertions, seemed to be a cheap grab at our emotions.

Meanwhile, Lonnie is awaiting trial and has yet to be convicted.

Half a star.

One thought on “Tales of the Grim Sleeper (2014)

  1. Pingback: Day ten – know thy venue | fillums

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