The Green River Killer  (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's notes in white

In theory, it should be possible to create an interesting movie about the Green River Killer. This isn't it.

The killer, Gary Ridgway, killed about four dozen women, mostly prostitutes and teenage runaways, in and around the Seattle-Tacoma area in the 1982-1984 period. The trail went cold, and Ridgway wasn't brought to justice until the police developed the advanced forensic applications of DNA, which led to his 2001 arrest and 2003 conviction.

Two elements make the case particularly interesting and unique:

1. It is extremely unlikely that a man would go on a violent killing streak in which he kills a woman every two weeks for two years, and would then just basically lay off and return to a quiet life for twenty years. That's actually an exaggeration on my part, because Ridgway did kill a few more victims after the initial outburst, but he had killed something like 48 women in 1982-84 and cut back to just a handful in the next two decades. Did his bloodlust diminish, did he fear being caught, or did he find a way to keep his madness in check?

2. The police stayed on the case doggedly, waiting for science to catch up with them, and finally cracked it twenty years later. Which cops kept after it for twenty years, and why did they think it was productive to do so?

The movie doesn't really get into those interesting aspects of the case. It basically just pictures a couple of the 1982-84 murders in docudrama fashion and intercuts that with actual police footage of the real Gary Ridgway confessing his crimes twenty years later. Using the real Ridgway tapes does give the film a chilling aspect, because Ridgway is completely without remorse or even regret, and describes the murders as casually as you or I might describe a PTA meeting to an absent partner. Unfortunately, those police tapes also introduce an element of confusion since the actor playing Ridgway in the flashbacks looks nothing like the real Ridgway in the cutaways.

Apart from the genuine Ridgway footage, the film is just sensationalist drive-in fare which probably bears no resemblance to real people or events other than that it uses real names. The connections to reality are tenuous. It pictures Ridgway having sex with and murdering two hot babes. He did have rough or forced sex with women and then kill them, so there's your connection, I suppose.

Some critics harped on the film's amateur performers and cheap digital video appearance. I'll vouch for the bad acting and total lack of nuance in the characterizations, but I have to disagree on the film's visual aesthetics. Some scenes, it is true, look like home movies filmed in your dad's basement, but the two murder scenes look pretty damned good. They are sharply focused, the lighting is interesting, and the colors are vivid. I thought the photography in these two scenes was the film's only redeeming factor, except for the real Ridgway footage, but look below and decide for yourself.

Here's the director's rated filmography.

  1. (4.62) - Blank Generation (1980)
  2. (4.55) - The Boogeyman (1980)
  3. (4.46) - Strangers in Paradise (1984)
  4. (4.20) - BrainWaves (1983)
  5. (4.06) - Olivia (1983)
  6. (3.88) - The Devonsville Terror (1983)
  7. (3.50) - Cold Heat (1989)
  8. (3.35) - Cocaine Cowboys (1979)
  9. (3.00) - Green River Killer (2005) (V)
  10. (2.76) - The Big Sweat (1991)
  11. (2.69) - Zodiac Killer (2005)
  12. (2.55) - The Zodiac Killer (2005)
  13. (2.32) - Boogeyman II (1983)
  14. (2.21) - Daniel - Der Zauberer (2004) (26th worst of all time)

Should you give it a look? Well, let me put it this way. Overall, this film ranks below the career mean of Ulli Lommel, a director who could present a reasonable case as the worst of all time. So you make the call.



  • The widescreen transfer is anamorphically enhanced for 16x9 screens



We see breasts from Jacquelyn Horrell and Georgina Donovan as two of his victims.

Tuna's notes in yellow

Green River Killer (2005) is yet another serial killer story, this time based on the true story of Gary Ridgway, who was arrested in Seattle for 48 murders. He would rape and then strangle his victims, all prostitutes, then dump them near the Green River. He agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a guarantee that he would not be given the death penalty. He is currently serving 48 consecutive life sentences. Part of his plea bargain was to cooperate with authorities. He claimed that his actual body count was more like 80 women. The most chilling scenes in the film were actual footage of the real Ridgway being questioned by the police. He spoke about these murders as calmly as you would talk about a new flea collar for your dog.

This is certainly not entertaining, and there was no effort put into creating suspense. It was clear that he would kill every woman he took home from his favorite bar, and we know from the beginning who he is, and that he will be caught. I didn't feel the film gave any insight into why he did it. It did very clearly show that his thought processes were not like those of normal people, and that he didn't really feel that he was doing wrong. There have been enough serial killer films now to call them a genre unto themselves. This one doesn't stack up well against others in the genre in terms of suspense or scare, and the photography is not that good.

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Miscellaneous ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Tuna says, "This is a low C-. It is only for genre completists." Scoop says, "If we base our rankings on completists, then no film can ever go below C-, since completists (by definition) want to see every one of a certain type. Let me suggest that if you are going to skip only one serial murderer film of all that have ever existed, this might be the one. The only element of merit is the documentary footage of the real Ridgway. Based on the reviews at the genre sites, I would conclude that completists will want to watch it, but even they will hate it. I think the proper grade is therefore an E. If you don't absolutely have to see every serial murderer movie, then you certainly can pass on this one. Even if you do have to see every one, you should consider changing your mind."

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