Peter: Portrait of a Serial Killer DVD Review
Written and directed by Skip Kite
2011, Region 2 (PAL), 90 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 24th October 2011
Walt Kissack as Peter Sutcliffe
Gary Sharkey as Dr Spencer
Adam Lewis as Aleck
Bradley Benjamin as Broadmoor Jimmy
Not to be confused with Henry, Peter: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a drama that takes you into the mind of one of the UK’s most notorious serial killers, while using actual archive news footage to set the scene. We are shown his formative years, the biggest man hunt in police history to capture him and finally his time in jail, both through actors and news items.
The story of Peter Sutcliffe is a very intriguing and disturbing one. For those maybe not fully aware of Sutcliffe, otherwise known as the Yorkshire Ripper, he murdered 13 women and attacked a further seven over a period of five years in the Bradford and Leeds area of England.
Like many features that try and merge real footage with dramatisation, it is the real life aspects that become the most compelling. The broadcasts capture the frantic terror people of the North would have felt at the time of the murders, and then moves on to show the hatred of a community for one man. We also see footage of Peter’s dad talking about his son, highlighting the most terrifying thing about this story, Peter was just a normal man. This could happen to anybody’s son, anyone’s friend or anyone’s neighbour. No one saw it coming.
The sections of the film that show Peter in jail are really well done, but there are times when it feels like it should be one or the other, a documentary or a full feature. It is a very brave thing to merge and it does work, but there are just times when it feels the news coverage is far more compelling, which makes you want to go and watch a full documentary about it.
This film would not work without a good portrayal of Peter and the filmmakers have found the perfect person. The stunning performance by Walt Kissack as Peter is one thing the acted portion of the film does excel in. He looks just like him, capturing a dark haunting stare that is terrifying, but there is also that sense of a normal human there, which could really be anyone who just snaps.
The film deals heavily with Peter’s relationship with religion. He believed he was spoken to by God to rid the world of the filth on the streets. As the film delves in his mind, through sessions with a psychiatrist, this all becomes apparent and it is certainly an interesting way to highlight his many mental issues. It helps this aspect of Peter’s mind to come across to an audience, but it does not help the uneven feel to the movie. It would be hard for a film like this not to feel disjointed with all the techniques they are merging together, despite this though I did enjoy the way the film progressed.
It’s greatest achievement is how it tells such a dark story without resorting to all out gore. This film shows nothing and implies so much. One of the more disturbing parts of the film is Peter looking at all his tools, then hearing an Officer say a hack saw was used to try and cut off one of the heads of his victims. We know this is real, we know his happened we do not need to see any of it to be disturbed by it. For this, we should definitely give praise for director and writer Skip Kite for not resorting to cheap ways to involve the audience and for tackling this story in a tasteful, intriguing manner.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Not graded as this was a screener.