To Catch a Killer (1992)

to catch a killer poster 1992 movie john wayne gacy brian dennehy
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 7/10

Solid TV movie

Is still a TV movie that isn't able to go far enough

Movie Info

Movie Name:   To Catch a Killer

Studio:   Creative Entertainment Group

Genre(s):   Drama/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):   January 5, 1992-January 6, 1992 (Canada)/May 15, 1992 (US)

MPAA Rating:   Not Rated

to catch a killer john wayne gacy brian dennehy

Catch me if you can!

Teenager Chris Gant (Nicholas Shields) disappears after leaving his job at a hardware store.  One of the last people to see Gant alive is John Wayne Gacy (Brian Dennehy) who denies knowing anything about the teen’s location.  As Lt. Joe Kozenczak (Michael Riley) looks into Gacy who appears to be a pillar of the community, he slowly realizes that Gacy might be hiding more than just the location of Chris Gant.

Directed by Eric Till, To Catch a Killer was a TV movie based on the capture of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.  The film premiered in Canada on two nights on January 5, 1992-January 6, 1992 and then appeared on Fox on May 15, 1992.  Brian Dennehy was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Special.

to catch a killer john wayne gacy clown handcuffs brian dennehy michael riley

Want to see the handcuff trick?

John Wayne Gacy is forever known as the clown killer.  The pictures of him dressed in his clown costume adds to the horror of clowns, but this movie doesn’t really focus on this.  There is a clown scene, but this plays Gacy for more of what court proceedings and other people said he was…a manipulator that thought he was too smart to be caught.

Due to the nature of the crimes (preying on young men and killing them during homosexual encounters), the movie doesn’t do much with the crimes themselves.  It was 1992 when the movie was released and there was enough flack for implied homosexual relationships instead of overt relationships despite the nature of the film.  The movie instead focuses on the last victim of Gacy (whose real name was Robert Piest) and how Piest’s disappearance led to the capture and the revelation of how big of a monster Gacy was.

to catch a killer john wayne gacy seduces boy brian dennehy

Do you like movies about gladiators?

Dennehy is good as the killer and has said in interviews after the film that the role did haunt him.  Michael Riley is a rather generic detective who is after Gacy, but the movie tries to give him some dimension by tying the investigation to his family.  The movie also features appearances by Meg Foster (as the proscecutor) and Margot Kidder as a psychic brought in on the case.

The movie is a TV movie which is unfortunate.  The movie couldn’t push the boundaries as hard as it needed to and some “action scenes” involving a car chase just really don’t have a lot of energy.  I think the cast is strong enough that if the movie had been grittier that it would have worked, but the format of the TV movie just didn’t allow it.

To Catch a Killer is a solid TV movie that feels a step above some of the other TV movies, but it is a TV movie.  The movie might not have the edge that it needs, but it runs the risk of being too dark and the Gacy character could almost become a caricature if they played it much darker.  For what it is, the movie is solid.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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