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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grim, downbeat...you get the idea
The sordid tale of Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, the killing cousins who strangled their way to infamy in 1970s Los Angeles, finally made its way to the big screen (or at least straight to DVD) with director Chuck Parello's 2004 film "The Hillside Strangler". The movie absolutely oozes evil out of every pore, which is just as well considering its grimy subject matter...
Published on February 1, 2007 by Jeffrey Leach

versus
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Did Angelo Buono really act like Joe Pesci?
Filmed with what actually appears to be a budget and a little bit of style THE HILLSIDE STRANGLER stands head and shoulders above the influx of cheap serial killer biopics that have infested the video store shelves the last few years. Unfortunately it's still not all that good.

There's plenty of mean spirited violence and nudity, but what I would like to know...
Published on February 2, 2005 by Dymon Enlow


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grim, downbeat...you get the idea, February 1, 2007
The sordid tale of Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, the killing cousins who strangled their way to infamy in 1970s Los Angeles, finally made its way to the big screen (or at least straight to DVD) with director Chuck Parello's 2004 film "The Hillside Strangler". The movie absolutely oozes evil out of every pore, which is just as well considering its grimy subject matter. Bianchi and Buono would pose as cops or modeling agents to lure in girls, and then would kill them and dump their bodies around town during a four-month period in 1977 and 1978. Actually, the two engaged in lots of sordid activities. Bianchi was a chronic thief who posed as a psychologist when he moved out to California in the late 1970s. Buono was a car thief, sadist, and child abuser who ran a car upholstery business in L.A. When Bianchi hooked up with Buono, bad things were sure to follow. And they did. Ten murders, with two more attributed to Ken Bianchi in Washington after he left Los Angeles. Once the authorities apprehended them their trials drug on for years, well into the 1980s, largely because of the scheming machinations of Kenneth Bianchi. He was an accomplished liar as well as a heartless killer.

Parello's film covers most of Buono's and Bianchi's antics, starting with a look at Ken's unsuccessful career as a security guard in Rochester, New York. When his hopes of becoming a police officer end in frustration, Kenny (played by a gaunt C. Thomas Howell) heads to L.A. to stay with his loudmouthed cousin Angelo (Nick Turturro in the performance of his career). The two have an unusual relationship, to say the least. Angelo is an abusive, misogynistic cretin who quickly asserts emotional control over the weaker Bianchi. In no time at all the two set up a brothel in Buono's house, a plan that quickly sours when a rival threatens to kill them for stealing his women. This incident serves as the impetus for murder, as Buono and Bianchi seek revenge against the prostitutes that supposedly sold them out. Meanwhile, Ken Bianchi works hard to maintain a façade of respectability. He lives with a nice woman who bears him a child, but his dependence on his cousin and his various scams soon undermine the relationship. This woman eventually pulls up stakes and moves back to Washington. It is while he's pursuing her that Bianchi commits the two murders that bring about his arrest.

"The Hillside Strangler" is a deeply, DEEPLY disturbing look at two sociopathic personalities. It's a movie that will stay with you long after the credits roll, mostly because of the grimly effective performances from C. Thomas Howell and Nick Turturro. Both actors really nail down their parts, especially Turturro as the hateful Angelo Buono. He steals nearly every scene he appears in. His character spouts the most barbaric, anti-female language I've ever heard in a movie. He's so over the top that I cringed during many of his scenes. In fact, if you can watch the dinner scene between Turturro's Buono and his mother Jenny (Lin Shaye) without inwardly shriveling, you're a stronger man than I. C. Thomas Howell is just as effective and, without a doubt, just as creepy as Turturro's Buono. It's tough to watch Howell's Bianchi cackle as he turns out the light on one of his victim's in Washington at the end of the film, or hear him say with deep relish, "Let's get us another girl*!" at the restaurant without feeling deeply disturbed. On a lighter note, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the luscious Aimee Brooks in a small part as one of the most unfortunate victims in the entire ordeal (She can dance, too!).

Then there are the killings, which are graphic and shown without any sense of pity for the victim. I've noticed this a lot in many Hollywood offerings these days. The viewer really has to bring his or her own sense of morality to a movie like "The Hillside Strangler" because the filmmakers and scriptwriters refuse to make moral judgments about the perversities on display. We know that Buono and Bianchi are monsters, we know they preyed on numerous women and destroyed the lives of countless people in the process, but we don't really see any of that on the screen. There aren't scenes showing the families of the victims in a state of complete devastation because of the horrific crimes, nor do we find release through lengthy courtroom sequences. In this way, I would have to say that Chuck Parello's "The Hillside Strangler" is more an exploitation film than a serious examination of the Buono and Bianchi crime spree. It's a film that exists to show murder, mayhem, and unbridled criminality--period. If you think you will have a problem with that, if you must have a denouement that shows the punishment of absolute evil, you might want to give "The Hillside Strangler" a pass.

O.k., the extras. Tartan throws us a few bones here. We get a commentary track with director Parello, a few deleted/extended scenes that don't add much to the proceedings, trailers, and a lengthy interview with C. Thomas Howell that has to be seen to be believed. Howell comes off as a complete whack job, a total space cadet whose ramblings achieve epic proportions of Keanu Reeves-like vacuousness. I'm at a loss to tell you what he actually talked about in this interview. I will say that if this is what the actor is normally like, it's no wonder he went from making A-list material like "Red Dawn" and "The Hitcher" to low budget stuff like this and "Glass Trap". What a weirdo! Anyway, there you go. The performances are good, and Aimee Brooks is hot. If "The Hillside Strangler" sounds like your cup o' tea, insert the DVD and push play.

* "Girl" wasn't the word he used. I'm not allowed to use the actual term, apparently. Sorry.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Did Angelo Buono really act like Joe Pesci?, February 2, 2005
Filmed with what actually appears to be a budget and a little bit of style THE HILLSIDE STRANGLER stands head and shoulders above the influx of cheap serial killer biopics that have infested the video store shelves the last few years. Unfortunately it's still not all that good.

There's plenty of mean spirited violence and nudity, but what I would like to know is why these two vile, deranged, worthless individuals acted the way they did. What ignited their immense hatred for women?

When the movie opens Bianchi is already an evil security guard who moves in with his womanizing, abusive cousin in California. They start forcing women to be hookers. That falls through so they start killing...and that's it. Kill, kill, kill until they're arrested and the movie abruptly ends leaving me with more questions than when the movie began.

If you're a sadist looking for nothing but the "highlights" of these two sickos crime spree then this is the movie for you. If you're looking for something with depth and maybe a little insight then read a book. I hear "The Hillside Strangler" by Ted Schwarz is good. Also "Two of a Kind: The Hillside Strangler" by Darcy O'Brien got some good reviews.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Uncomfortable, But True To Life, October 16, 2005
The acting in this film was amazing. I was really impressed with C.Thomas Howell. HOwever, I was so uncomfortable watching this movie because it is brutally realisitc. I guess that was the point, to how how cruel those two men (if you can call them men), were. Although it was good, I would have liked to see more of the actual trial and incarceration. The film focused directly on their acts the entire time, which is hard to watch.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very disturbing film, March 7, 2005
Don't listen to the reviewers who are giving this movie bad reviews. These two men were terrible people, and the uses realism to illustrate this fact. At times I think a little more depth could help with understanding the characters, hence the four star rating. But overall it is a good film, which really captures story well.

Thoses who rate this poorly are doing so only because the have trouble with "shocking" cinema. But for those of you who can handle unsettling scenes, I would recommend this.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I was there!, February 5, 2005
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The mark this movie hits is the fear that these two degenerates caused to a community. Believe me when I say that Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard were filled with the walking scared, the hiding, and the I don't know how to feel people during the late seventies. I was twenty years old, living and working on the Boulevard during the "Hillside Strangler" days and I'm serious; fear was rampant and the movie captures it fairly well. The scenery is perfect; the old establishments, "Deep Throat" on the marquee, the Gold Cup cafe, and a glimpse of the old Hollywood Barber College; perfect. I had to do a composite drawing on the younger bastard. When I talked to the other witnesses that were involved with the eighth killing, all I experienced from them was distrust, fear, screams, and an overall sick feeling. Catching the bastards was a landmark in my life. I recommend this movie for its attempt to lead us into the sick, demented minds of the deranged, as well as providing us with a moment in time when Hollywood was on the edge of panic.
Remember, the community thought the killer[s] was a cop. Who were we to trust? Watching your backside was the norm every night on the Boulevard and this movie brought back some real scary memories. If this movie can disturb me, I'd say it will disturb you. So, if you like to watch disturbing realism, plug this DVD into your player, turn down the light, pour a cognac, and hold onto your baby because the scare is creeping just around the corner. BOO!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Needed more of Bianchi's psyche, February 13, 2005
I was so repulsed after watching this film that I felt like hopping into a steaming hot shower and scrubbing down with an S.O.S. pad.

If this film accurately depicts how they treated their victims, how they spoke to them, etc., then these were two of the most revolting humans ever to have crawled out of the ocean.

But I had problems with the movie itself. Bianchi's character development seemed like snapshots. We didn't know why - and this was, in my mind, the most essential part of the film - he went from having an interest in psychology and a desire to be a police officer, to a depraved, deranged killer. We saw him move from one person to the next, but there was never any reason why. Angelo was Angelo from the beginning, and it was no surprise to me that he got ticked off and wanted to start killing people. He started out bad, and there really wasn't anywhere else for him to go but down. However, that wasn't the case with Bianchi. He might have been slimy and dishonest, but he was very different from Angelo.

Instead of spending so much time showing us images of what was basically soft-core porn, the filmmakers could have dug into Bianchi's brain. It's a shame that they thought nudity more important.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars a mixed bag, August 8, 2005
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**1/2

Is there anything more inscrutable and unfathomable than the mind of a serial killer? Probably not, yet, year after year, undeterred filmmakers attempt to come to grips with this elusive subject matter, usually with unsatisfactory results.

Generally, serial killer stories are placed in the context of a police procedural, in which a crack homicide investigator searches for clues in the hopes of finding the culprit before he can claim his next victim. But, once in awhile, filmmakers will take a more serious approach to the topic, focusing more on the killer himself, his methods and his madness, as a means of trying to "open up" the psyche of such a person in the hopes of finding answers. "The Hillside Strangler" is in the second category.

The so-called "Hillside Strangler" actually turned out to be TWO serial killers who, working in tandem, terrorized Los Angeles in the early 1970's. Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono were "cousins" who acted out their hatred of women by kidnapping, raping and slaughtering an assortment of innocent victims they picked out at random (they started with streetwalkers, then branched out to women in general). Bianchi was a loser "nobody" who found murdering helpless young women and terrorizing a whole city (albeit in anonymity) the only way in which he could achieve the status of a "somebody." Buono was a smalltime auto repairman who, through the murders, finally got the opportunity to act out his sadistic sexual fantasies on an epic scale. In fact, as portrayed in the movie, both men use the killings as the ultimate orgasm, confusing the destruction of the helpless with sexual fulfillment.

The problem with a movie like "The Hillside Strangler" is that, no matter how serious it is in its intention and approach, the film is bound to feel exploitative in its darkest moments. Although this is definitely no sensationalistic rabblerousing gore-fest like "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," after we've watched a half dozen or so innocent terrified young girls being essentially tortured to death, we still wind up asking ourselves what the purpose of the movie really is. Director Chuck Parello adopts a cool, detached, documentary-style tone throughout, but it still isn't enough to smooth us past the emotionally disturbing rough patches.

That being said, there are a few quality elements in "The Hillside Strangler" provided one has a high tolerance for depictions of disturbing violence. The movie effectively shows just how easily two utterly amoral individuals can pass for rational and normal in the eyes of the outside world. Bianchi is particularly adept at leading a double life, going so far as pulling the wool over the eyes of his very own wife who has no clue about her husband's deadly nocturnal activities. C. Thomas Howell and Nicholas Turturro give complex, chilling performances as Bianchi and Buono, keeping us on the knife-edge of suspense through much of the movie. The film also does a good job capturing the look of the `70's, right on down to the polyester clothes, perms and ubiquitous moustaches that helped to define the era. The poorly lit, slightly grainy photography also gives the film the look of one of those low budget exploitation pictures of thirty years ago. (There is at least one inadvertent anachronism in the film: the skyline we see in some of the establishing shots is of Los Angeles today, not three decades ago).

The screenplay by Parello and Stephen Johnston pays little heed to the detection aspects of the story, so much so that we never find out what it is that made the police suspicious of Bianchi in the first place. We see him being apprehended but have no idea what the clues were that led to his capture. This is a frustration oversight on the part of the filmmakers.

"The Hillside Strangler" deserves credit for at least trying to bring a more controlled, less sensationalistic approach to a topic that often gets thrown onto the trash heap of two-bit police dramas and slasher horror films. But, for all its good intentions, the film doesn't wind up revealing much about the psychotic mindset that we didn't already know before. Thus, the rewards are not sufficient compensation for the unpleasantness of sitting through so much of the movie.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars REPELLENT TRUE CRIME FILM..., January 24, 2005
This a a true crime film that shows the killing spree engaged in by two sociopathic cousins, Kenneth Bianchi (C. Thomas Howell) and Angelo Buono (Nick Turturro), who indulged in a killing spree of young women in Los Angeles during the nineteen seventies. All I can say is that both of these actors must have been hard up for money for them to have acted in this tawdry film.

This film sheds little light on what motivated these two cousins, Kenneth and Angelo, to behave as they did, though it does provide some tantalizing glimpses. Kenneth was adopted and certainly seemed to have had an odd, clinging relationship with his adopted mother. Angelo had a totally dysfunctional relationship with his mother, Kenneth's adopted mother's younger sister, whom Angelo may have even tried to kill at one time. Both these sisters seemed to have had behavioral issues.

Interestingly enough, Kenneth was a police wanna be who, thankfully, kept having his law enforcement job applications rejected by various agencies for one reason or another. He sometimes worked as a security guard. When his rejection by a law enforcement agency for a job proved to be too much for him, his mother sent him packing from Rochester, New York, to live with his cousin, Angelo, an auto mechanic in Los Angeles.

Kenneth would thankfully also be rejected by law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles and surrounding counties. While in Los Angeles, he masqueraded as a Columbia University trained psychotherapist. Yes, our sicko killer would actively counsel others, which would provide a surprise twist in the end. He would also manage to form a relationship with a nice woman who found his disgusting cousin, Angelo, repellent, as he made her feel uncomfortable as he made me feel.

Together, Angelo and Kenneth would form go on to establish a house of prostitution, getting prospective clients from a list of names that Kenneth bought from a prostitute. When that unsavory business venture is shut down by competing pimps who object to what they see as a poaching of their clients, Angelo decides to exact revenge by killing the prostitute who sold them the list of clients. This would the first of their many kills, and the beginning of the cousins' end.

Spouting scatological references at every turn, referring to women in pejorative terms and treating them with overt contempt, physically and verbally, at every opportunity, Angelo is totally primal, without redeeming value as a human being. Killing women as a past time was not a great leap for Angelo. For Kenneth, it would provide the opportunity to impersonate a police officer for the purpose of lulling his victims into a false sense of security, before going in for the kill.

Under Angelo's tutelage, the weak and whiny Kenneth would blossom into a lustful, eager killer. Angelo, who was already a full blown sociopath, needed no prompting. The police would go on to dub the handiwork of these two fiends as being that of "The Hillside Strangler", as the police did not realize that two individuals were involved, until after Kenneth, the weaker of the two, was apprehended.

I confess that I have seldom have seen a more repellent character in a film than that of Angelo. He is so disgusting that I was embarrassed for Nick Turturro and surprised that an actor of his reputation would undertake a role that had such little redeeming value. C. Thomas Howell, looking unusually cadaverous, fares a little better, as his character, while unsavory and pathetic, is not quite as disgusting of that of Turturro's.

This film pulls out all the stops in reaching for the lowest common denominator. With profanity, vulgarity, and nude, large breasted women getting killed at every turn, this unrated film does its best to totally disgust the viewer. In this it succeeds, verging on the pornographic, at times. The problem is that it does little else. The film provides too little insight or background to show how such horrible human beings came to be. In the end, the film results in being merely repellent, making the viewer feel unclean for having seen it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Hillside Strangler, October 6, 2010
From the makers of ED GEIN and TED BUNDY comes another sickening look at the true life accounts of two psychotic killers that terrorized the Hollywood Hills in the late 1970's. Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono were just two manipulative cousins that were hard on their luck until they decided to put together their own prostitution ring to earn some quick cash. When things began to go downhill, the two started to take their aggression out on local street walkers, raping and torturing them before dumping their bodies throughout the San Fernando Valley. Like the other Tartan Films true crime dramas, THE HILLSIDE STRANGLER is a revolting look into the minds of these twisted criminals, giving off the same grimy look and feel as a 70's porno theater that will leave the viewer thoroughly disgusted. Chuck Parello succeeds once more at creating an authentic period piece through the drowned out coloring and vintage apparel. More than anything else, it is the sleazy and scheming performances of leads C. Thomas Howell and Nicholas Torturro that send a cold shiver down the spine. Through quick glimpses, we are able to see the sociopathic tendencies and compulsive lying that the two shared with many other killers of their time. There is no safety net of comic gore or over-the-top villains to be found here, just the gritty depictions of true horror. While many of the facts and names have been altered in the process of making the film, THE HILLSIDE STRANGLER is a valid attempt at bringing the killers' monstrous rampage to the small screen.

-Carl Manes
I Like Horror Movies
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disturbing with explicit strangling scenes. Don't know how truthful this film is., September 19, 2008
It's very disturbing with explicit strangling and choking scenes. It scared the wits out of me seeing these two men killing one woman after another. I don't know how truthful this film is. According to documents, they killed at least 10 people before being arrested.

Nicholas Turturro is frightening as one of the killers. He looks and acts like a crazy person.

This film is more curiosity-provoking than interesting. I give it two and half a stars out of five.
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