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    Writer-director David Grieco hacks away at the true story of the Soviet Union's worst serial killer until he's left with "Evilenko," a shallow, schlocky psycho-killer flick that wastes the talents of Malcolm McDowell.


    A.R. Evilenko was a devout, card-carrying member of the Communist Party who killed — and ate — some 55 children and young women over a ten-year period. Evilenko wasn't his real name; that's just one of several admitted fabrications by Italian journalist David Grieco, the director of "Evilenko" and the author of the book "The Communist Who Ate Children" on which the film is based. The serial killer's real name was Andrej Romanovic Cikatilo, a high school teacher from Kiev, c. 1982.

    Written and directed by: David Grieco.
    Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Marton Csokas, Ronald Pickup, Frances Barber, Alexei Chadyuk, Ostap Stupka.
    Cinematography: Fabio Zamarion.

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    Philadelphia Film Festival 2005
    • Overview

    • Official festival site

    • Clean
    • Crying Out Love in the Center of the World
    • Evilenko
    • Frozen

    • Machuca
    • Or (My Treasure)
    • Winter Solstice
    • Woman Is the Future of Man
    Grieco's script cites 'Evilenko' because it "sounded good. Evil, and -enko, y'know?"

    The writer/director also confesses that, while his book and subsequent film are based on a real person and real events, he made some of the stuff up. But this isn't some cheesy Eastern Bloc slasher pic (supposedly). "There are a lot of subjects in the film," Grieco adds, mentioning that the more he got into researching "the monster of Rostov" the more he saw this tale of a cold-blooded cannibal paralleling the Soviet Union's political climate at the time.

    So much for the setup. If only the film were as earnest, as well-meaning, as politically astute as its director intended. Instead, "Evilenko" is a bloody, awful mess.

    Discredit must go to Grieco, of course, who offers up a bland and oftentimes embarrassing script that's laughable one minute, nonsensical the next. He has selected Malcolm McDowell to portray his central protagonist, and while that might seem like an expert signing on paper, he plops McDowell down in a second-rate production and expects him to give a first-rate performance without any of the necessary supports. That, and he saddles McDowell with an Elton John shag, huge — and dweeby — tortoiseshell frames, and asks him to deliver lines that sound like dialogue exorcised from an amateur dramatics production of "Sweeney Todd."

    To make matters worse, with very few exceptions, all of the supporting characters — victims, wives, policemen — sound as though their voices were dubbed. Turns out they were! Not from the Russian, so the lip-synching is off, like in an old Cantonese action flick starring Jackie Chan (which might have made the film more amusing at least), but from incomprehensibly-accented English, apparently.

    "Evilenko" is totally devoid of background, insight, and motivation. Is Cikatilo a tortured soul, a painfully troubled individual as a result of a lonely, depressed adolescence at the hands of abusive parents (which is typically the case)? We don't know. Are his psychotic frustrations and sociopathic tendencies purely a reflection of his country's political turmoil? It's not clear. Grieco hints at something deeper, then dilutes his narrative with dirty-old-man-on-a-park-bench scenarios, snatches of skin and gore, and a "bares all" showdown between killer and cop that's as ridiculous as it is pitiful.

    We will never truly know the inner workings of a sick and depraved criminal mind but "Evilenko" doesn't even try!

    Serial killer movies are a dime a dozen and you'd be hard pressed to find one as inane as this. Try "The Silence of the Lambs," for starters, or "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer," even the overrated "Monster" instead. Better yet check out the 1995 TV movie "Citizen X," which documents the Cikatilo murders from the vantage point of the Russian forensic pathologist assigned to the case — it's available on DVD.

    Too bad "Evilenko" is available, period.

    APRIL 21, 2005

    Reader comments on Evilenko:

  • what a loser   from MovieKritik, Apr 21, 2005
  • EvilEnko   from ZeNuda, Aug 12, 2005
  • Butterworth is all wrong   from sunner, Apr 29, 2006
  • baffled by butterworth   from Bernard, Jun 26, 2006
  • Re: baffled by butterworth   from TheIcarusComplex, Jul 20, 2006
  • Evilenko   from Charles J. Chase, Aug 13, 2006
  • crazy   from kaoh, Apr 27, 2007

  • Post a comment on "Evilenko"