Rampage: The Hillside Strangler Murders (2006) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Rampage is yet another film about the Hillside Strangler murders. The last one, which featured C. Thomas Howell as Kenneth Bianchi, was a straightforward and accurate account of the crimes and the apprehension of the killers, seasoned by a bit of back story about the relationship of the killers to their families. It was, more or less, a docudrama.

This film takes a radically different approach. In essence, it tries to view the stranglers in the context of LA in the seventies. It is a fictional story which blends in elements of the real Hillside Strangler investigation, but even those real details are presented with a great deal of dramatic license. The principal character in the film is not Kenneth Bianchi, but a fictional psychiatrist who is called in by the D.A. to evaluate Bianchi's story. The shrink first believes that Bianchi is not capable of multiple murders. Later she believes that he may be a victim of multiple personality disorder, with one of his personalities having committed the murder and the other being unaware of it. As time goes on, her head begins to clear and she begins to suspect that Bianchi is a skillful phony. She gets him to agree to hypnosis and sets some traps to see if he is faking his hypnotic trance.

The real Bianchi was (actually IS - he is still alive in person) a very complicated man. He was intelligent, and a pathological liar. He was a self-pitying fraud who faked such things as cancer. He was both a good family man and a mass murderer. He was a charlatan who set up a phony counseling practice. He was a pimp, but he wanted to be a cop. In addition to faking multiple personality disorder while in custody, he also concocted a wild scheme to exonerate himself by talking a crime groupie into attempting some copycat murders while he was imprisoned. His story is one of the most fascinating of all the tales of 20th century criminals.

This particular film focuses solely on his attempt to simulate multiple personality disorder, and the script consolidates the evaluations of five different mental health professionals (a psychiatric social worker and four psychiatrists) into one person, the psychiatrist played by Brittany Daniel in the film. Since these five people formed vastly different opinions about Bianchi, it was necessary to make the film's psychiatrist undergo some improbable changes of heart, starting with one conclusion, migrating to another, and eventually experiencing an epiphany and renouncing all of her earlier opinions. In order for this to work, the script had to change the real-life relationship(s) between Bianchi and the mental health professionals, so that his erratic actions outside of the clinical interview setting would lead her to change her mind. To my knowledge, the real Bianchi never interacted with any of the psychiatric professionals outside of their clinical visits during his incarceration. In the film, Bianchi makes visits to the psychiatrist's home, and even kills a woman who had been in a threesome with the swinging shrink earlier on the very night of her murder. Bianchi even makes a pass at the fictional shrink! Her change of heart is based at least in part on the observations she is able to make in these completely fabricated situations. To add some credibility to her mental transformation, the script also gave her a bizarre drug-addled social life which could be seen to contribute to her early misdiagnosis. When she got rid of her abusive, sex-crazed, drug-dealing boyfriend and the debauched lifestyle she shared with him, the Bianchi case seemed to come into better focus.

The script wanders so far from the true story that it really becomes a fictional story which uses some real names and events. Bianchi was not brought in by the police as pictured here. The L.A. investigation proceeded nothing like the film's version. Bianchi was not caught twice in L.A. and released over the objections of the investigating officers, thus allowing him to terrorize his psychiatrist and murder again. In fact, he was caught in Washington State, where he had settled down into a routine job with his girlfriend and their child. He might have escaped prosecution on the Hillside murders forever, except that he killed two more girls in Washington, and certain clues led the police in Washington to contact L.A. The fact that Bianchi really did have some form of split personality, if not the type he pretended to, was indicated by the reaction of his girlfriend when he was arrested. She attested that he was an ideal husband and father - not exactly the typical serial killer profile! Bianchi's court-appointed lawyer was the first to sense that he might have mental problems, and that there might be grounds for an insanity plea, so he asked for the opinion of a psychiatric social worker. The sympathetic social worker was probably the single real-life character who most closely inspired the initial reaction of the film's psychiatrist, although in real life their interaction happened in Washington, and entirely behind bars.

There was some real-life basis for the film's portrayal of the tension between the police and the psychiatrist. One of the first psychiatrists to interview Bianchi in Washington fell for the multiple personality ruse, a fact which stunned the L.A. detective who observed the same interview and saw many clues that Bianchi was faking. That detective's observations, combined with the clever work of the last psychiatrist to evaluate Bianchi, formed the basis for the methods which were eventually used by the film's psychiatrist to expose Bianchi in the film's climax.

What does all this prove? I honestly have no idea. I sure didn't gain any insights from it.

The seemingly pointless script is matched by some irritating and nauseating camera work. The early part of the film is filled with all sorts of camera techniques which simulate the drug-addled fog of the psychiatrist's life. The two most common gimmicks are (1) circling the camera around the subject, and (2) creating multiple dissolves. Sometimes these gimmicks are used together. In one scene in which the psychiatrist interviews Bianchi, the final screen images have been created from four separate sequences dissolved together (right) - and the camera is circling in all four of the sub-images, and not in the same direction! To make matters worse, some of the sub-images include start-stop tricks to simulate the kind of image trails seen by pot smokers. If you are prone to motion sickness, this film could actually induce vomiting.

Literally. And that's without even considering the content!

The camera crew also seemed to be short of light bulbs, and the few they had seemed to be red. I can't recall when I have seen a more difficult film to watch. We can be thankful that the film is so short (85 min).

There is some good news. It is quite pleasant to see Brittany Daniel naked. She proves that the combination of nudity and physical fitness can provide a very stimulating and beautiful contribution to a film. Unfortunately, this particular film didn't have much else, and even Brittany's fit figure was often ruined by crazy lighting.



  • The transfer is widescreen, anamorphically enhanced
  • There are two commentary tracks. The director is on both, joined by actors on one, the cinematographer on the other.
  • Nine deleted scenes, but nothing of great interest.



  • Brittany Daniel - breasts and buns

  • Joleigh Fioreavanti - dark full frontal, then well-lit breasts

  • Valerie Stodghill - completely naked from many directions, but with pubes always obscured.

  • Michelle Borth - dark, red-tinted breasts

  • Various others: breasts and buns

The Critics Vote ...

  • No major reviews online

The People Vote ...

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, it's a D. If I were you, I would skip it unless you really, really want to see Brittany Daniel naked. (She does look mighty fine.)

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