Michael Feifer’s B.T.K. describes itself as ‘a fictional film based on a real character’. That character is the serial killer Dennis L. Rader, who was arrested in March 2005 for the murder of ten people, in a killing spree that spanned two decades. Rader was known as B.T.K. because of his penchant for binding, torturing and then killing his victims. He was perceived by those who knew him, as an ordinary, law abiding, family man. He was President of the Congregation Council at his church and Cub Scout leader. Married, with two daughters, no one suspected he had another, more sinister side.
B.T.K. does not tell us the story from the beginning, but picks up the story when it’s almost over, after Rader has been killing for many years already. It shows us how, whilst working as a compliance officer (which was the perfect job for such a control freak), Rader chooses his victims by accusing them of minor offenses and seeing how they react. Those who argue with him don’t live long enough to regret it. Rader goes back to their house later and kills them. He gets his sexual kicks by watching them suffer, seeing the horror in their eyes as he suffocates or strangles them. There are a few gruesome moments, but the sheer terror of these doesn’t come across because of the unrealistic reactions of the victims. I was curious to see how Kane Hodder, most famous for his role as Jason Vorhees in some of the Friday the 13th movies, would fare without his hockey mask. There is no doubt he can pull off a machete wielding, masked maniac, but unfortunately, as Rader, I found his acting to be average at best. Luckily for him, alongside the acting of Amy Lindon as Rader’s wife Susan, he almost looks good!
Unfortunately B.T.K. does not tell us much about what makes Rader tick. Feifer does make the odd clumsy attempt to put us in the picture, such as when Rader tells his victim about his urges, and explains why he feels the need to do what he does, it is patently apparent that this is the only way Feifer could get his message to us. It feels like he cheated by writing it in such a blatant way. In fact the screenwriting is below par throughout the entire film. As this isn’t Feifer’s first serial killer film (he’s done them on Bundy and Speck, to name a couple), I’m surprised it wasn’t more professionally done.
Feifer’s direction can only be described as average. There are moments where, with the right direction, there might have been the odd jump-scare, but because there is no build up of tension, and the musical score is weak, adding nothing to the atmosphere, those moments pass by unnoticed. This is such a shame, because had this been better directed this could have been a very frightening film. The story has such potential. There’s nothing scarier than an average guy, living an ordinary life, who in his spare time tortures and brutally kills, before going home to his family and carrying on as if nothing has happened. Unfortunately, the story is not well told, nor is it well acted and as a result it is wasted.