While it may not be as disturbingly potent as director John McNaughton's masterful Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, director Chuck Parello's grim recounting of the real-life murder spree that terrified the citizens of Los Angeles during the late '70s does surpass the majority of recent of serial killer-themed releases (Gacy and Ed Gein, just to name a few) in terms of both artistic quality and vision -- not to mention quality of acting, thanks to a truly unnerving performance by underrated actor Nicholas Turturro. As the sociopathic catalyst for the merciless killing spree, Turturro's cold and unflinching cruelty propels the film forward as C. Thomas Howell's menacing milquetoast grows increasingly comfortable with his newfound celebrity status. Though The Hillside Strangler does not shy away from the horrific torture of the duo's ill-fated victims, it also doesn't dwell on them. The issue of how much to actually show and how much to leave to an audience's imagination has long been a point of controversy within the realm of fact-based crime and horror films, and even in the unrated version of The Hillside Strangler we see Parello exercising some restraint. This doesn't make the nightmarish acts committed by the pair any easier to watch though -- and when all is said and done, the fact that these heinous acts were actually committed and that real people did suffer may still be too unnerving for many folks to handle.
by Jason Buchanan review