• U.S.

CINEMA: ONE SICK CAT

2 minute read
Richard Corliss

SERIAL KILLERS DON’T DESERVE much sympathy, but, Jeez, can’t we leave them alone for a while? There aren’t all that many multiple maniacs in the forensic literature–not nearly so many, it seems, as in the new movies. To judge from Hollywood’s fall fad, folks can’t go to bed or step into a shower or visit a ladies’ room without bumping into an evil genius who has exotic plans for kitchen cutlery. With Seven, Never Talk to Strangers and now Copycat, serial-killer thrillers are as thick and windy as Republican candidates in New Hampshire.

Copycat, directed by Jon Amiel (The Singing Detective, Sommersby), means to be a Greatest Hits album of atrocities. Its murderer has eyes to replicate the artistry of such superstar psychos as Son of Sam, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Boston and Hillside Stranglers–that crowd. His pursuer is a crafty cop (Holly Hunter). His nemesis is a psychologist (Sigourney Weaver) who studies the serial killer’s mentality. And his hero is a recently arrested multiple murderer (cleverly played by saloon crooner Harry Connick Jr. as if he were a more deranged cousin of Jim Varney’s goony Ernest character).

Screenwriters Ann Biderman and David Madsen are copycats too, primarily of Thomas Harris’ terrific novels Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs. Copycat is also faithful to other melodramatic conventions. The sympathetic gay friend will be killed. The brilliant schemer will go implausibly stupid at the climax. And the filmmakers will forget what Harris knows: that there is great horror and pathos inside these creatures. A sick mind is a terrible thing to waste.

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