Review: Happy Face Killer
David Arquette stars as Keith Jesperson, a man with a lot of sick urges that have long laid dormant, but once the truck driver is rejected first by his fed-up wife and applying for his dream job as a Mountie, he snaps and starts picking up women to rape and kill. Gloria Reuben plays the police investigator tracking the killer down.
I’m always up for a good true crime story, but this 2014 TV movie from cinematographer turned director Rick Bota (the direct-to-DVD “Hellraiser: Hellseeker” and a lot of TV) isn’t anywhere near good. Lousy, tame, and poorly cast this is a real waste of potential in the true-life story. Scripted by Richard Christian Matheson (the infamously bad “Loose Cannons” as well as several episodes of “The A-Team”), there really was potential in the story of a creepy guy lying dormant until opportunity shows itself for him to indulge himself. The problem in execution is that said creepy guy is played by someone who simply cannot act. David Arquette is perfectly fine at being David Arquette in roles where that is advantageous, such as “Scream” and “Beautiful Girls”. In addition to being the absolute wrong size and shape for the role (the real killer was pretty damn huge, apparently), this is the absolute wrong role for David Arquette being David Arquette. When he’s called upon to be creepy and menacing, it’s eye-rolling and amateurish. There’s zero credibility there. Truth be told, the film’s other familiar face, Gloria Reuben doesn’t exactly cover herself in glory, either. I’ve never liked the former “E.R.” actress and here as police detective, I swear she never blinks once. It’s a distractingly stiff performance.
Also hampering the film is its chosen medium. I know it’s a TV movie, but the murders here are predominantly off-screen. It’s only after an hour or so before we actually see Arquette choke someone to death. It makes for a very limp, unsatisfying experience all-round. In fact, the only thing I found even halfway interesting here was when the killer gets upset that someone else owns up to the crimes he himself is committing, whilst he gets pegged for a mere copycat. Otherwise…ugh. No, this won’t do.
Nothing works here, a shame given the real-life case should’ve lent itself to something interesting. However, with two terrible actors at the helm and a story limited by a tame TV movie approach, this thing never comes close to working.