The Ungodly

Aka The Perfect Witness


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Ungodly is a new take on the serial killer genre. Wes Bentley stars, playing a character so similar to the one he played in American Beauty that it seems like the same guy some years later, fallen upon hard times. As in American Beauty, he walks around with a camera all the time, filming everything while he looks for the big project.

He gets the big project, all right. He films a serial murderer in the act, and even manages to identify the man. Does he go to the police? No. Instead he figures that the maniac will make the perfect subject for the documentary that will elevate him to the top of that field. He thinks even Ken Burns and Michael Moore will have to step aside and concede him to be the master of the genre when he unveils his documentary, complete with in-depth interviews and actual murder footage. Bentley arranges a meeting with the killer, and the two men form an uneasy pact in which the madman agrees to be interviewed on camera in return for Bentley's promise that his identity will be kept a secret until he is caught or killed.

The idea behind Ungodly is not completely original. The script was probably inspired by a Belgian cult film called C'est arrivé près de chez vous, in that the filmmaker is deceived and manipulated by the serial killer in both films, causing the film to be controlled by its subject. In both projects, the filmmakers are amoral and are gradually sucked into more criminal liability of their own. That isn't the only thing that lacks originality in Ungodly. The killer has the usual flashbacks to extreme child abuse by his mother, who has since died.

But the script only starts with those familiar elements, and eventually uses  them to develop both unique characters and a surprisingly suspenseful and complex plot. Because of his own miserable childhood, the killer has a special soft place in his heart for children. He works with orphaned kids, dying kids, sick kids, and neighbor kids, and in each case his philanthropy is genuine and his contribution is worthwhile. Some people in his world think he is a saint. But when it comes to grown women, he is a completely different person. Basically he's the Will Rogers of murder. He never met a women he didn't like - to kill. His formative years made him both a generous, kind man and a monster, depending on whom he interacts with. In fact, since he has at least some positives, and since we can understand what made him what he is, we can conclude that he is probably a much better man in some ways than the photographer, who not only tries to advance his career by allowing the maniac to commit more murders, but is also a junkie and an alcoholic, and may even be capable of worse things to come. (Just how far he will go is part of the film's hook.)

The script devotes a lot of energy to developing both of the main characters. They are both interested in philosophy, both cerebral men, and that leads to some interesting dialogue about some pretty heavy topics. ("I wish God would strike me down," says the maniac, "then at last I could believe He exists and is just.") In addition to deep characterization, the script also has some surprising plot twists. The two men obviously cannot trust one another, so each engages in various power strategies and cat-and-mouse games to gain control over the other. Underlying all of that is the filmmaker's well grounded fear that he, too, could be the next victim if the killer considers him too great a threat. All of those elements would have been enough for a sufficiently juicy and full plot with plenty of suspense, but the film also layers in quite a shocking and inventive surprise involving the killer's dead mother.

Of course the film is a relentless downer. It's virtually a two character play, and both of the characters, while interesting, are utterly detestable and amoral. The scenes often degenerate into loud chaos and brutal violence supported by cacophonous background sounds, making the film an extremely intense and unpleasant experience. Even the film's greatest strength, the depth of its portrayals, is a source of unpleasantness. After all, just how deep into the mind of a serial killer would you like to be? And as depressing as the main body of the film is, the ending makes the rest of the film seem like The Sound of Music.

All of that notwithstanding, in my opinion it's quite an excellent film. In fact, I found this film to be more engrossing than Mr. Brooks, the similarly-themed film with Dane Cook and Kevin Costner, and by that comparison I do not mean to disparage Mr. Brooks, which impressed me. It's just that this film is deeper, more intense, and better acted. My biggest surprise of 2007 is Mark Borkowski, who not only co-wrote the consistently interesting script, but turned in a powerful performance as the killer. Although Borkowski has virtually no experience as an actor, if you heard this film in the next room you would be absolutely convinced that you were listening to a forgotten Harvey Keitel movie. There would be no doubt in your mind. Borkowski doesn't look much like Keitel, but he sounds just like him, moves like him, and interprets lines so similarly that his performance seems like the work of a brilliant Keitel impersonator. Although Borkowski seems to be in his forties, I saw nothing in his exiguous IMDB entry to indicate that he was capable of this level of either acting or writing. He has written one 28-minute short, and has one acting credit, having starring in an obscure film seven years ago. To be fair, one IMDb reviewer said he was brilliant in that film, and I can believe it, but I have no idea what else he's done with his life in all these years.

But he surely did well here.


* widescreen anamorphic

* 1.66







No major reviews online







5.9 IMDB summary (of 10)
B+ Yahoo Movies






Festival circuit, then straight to DVD.





  • Befitting the film's ambition and seriousness of purpose, there is very little nudity for an intense story about a killer rapist. Marina Gatell shows one breast as a victim. Another victim is seen topless from a great distance.





Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


The surprise of the year for me. An unheralded indie film with power and profundity. But add this to the ever-growing list of good films that I would rather not have watched.