I remember when this movie was shot in Portland, Oregon, about eleven years ago. I had just joined a band (Henry Moon) and the guitarist's wife was involved with the making of this movie, though I don't remember what her title was exactly (she does not appear in the credits). We got to sit up all night, eat with the stars, watch scenes in the bar while they were shot, walk through the set, and hang out in a rough part of Portland all night on a weeknight in late Summer/early Fall. Then we got to be the band in the bar. I think our guitarist's right arm makes a 5 second appearance, and the rest of it, including our band's song, "The Night They Didn't Go To The Horror Picture Show," ended up on the cutting room floor. Oh well.
I knew nothing about the story until I saw this movie on the Encore/True Stories channel about ten years later. I was not as impressed as some reviewers have been with the acting. Yes, Ken Olin was good as a cruel and psycho nut case, but his character was thin and cold... the best villains have a sympathetic element to them, and yet Ken Olin's Brad Cunningham had no human or sympathetic characteristic at all. None. He is cinematic cardboard. Of course, I felt horrible for Cheryl Keeton (Annette O'Toole), and her children, but none of them were believable or had a lot of depth in this adaptation of Ann Rule's book. I did not feel as horrible as I should have, considering what happened to them. I did find myself rooting for Dr. Sara Gordon, but not as much as I wanted to. It all seemed so... flat, boring, and even though I had no real knowledge of the plot or background story, predictable.
Its an interesting story, once you get past the character development and the script. I cannot blame the cast. Ann Rule's book did not translate well into this script, and certainly Wesley Bishop could have taken a little bit more time with it, maybe even collaborated with Ms. Rule...of course I don't know that they didn't collaborate. I hope they didn't, it would explain a lot about the script, illustrating how an author's vision can be misinterpreted and dumbed down for television. The script hardly lives up to the story she told in her book. Karen Arthur (Director) was fun to work with, but I had never been in front of a camera before, so I wouldn't know what a good director does. I do have my opinion of the final product, however, and I thought this could have been a lot better. I know that they shot it in a hurry... if I recall, the shoot went around the clock, was shot in 8 or 10 weeks total, and by watching the film I can tell that they didn't re-shoot all that much.
Still, its fun to see my home town in the made-for-television movies, and this is an interesting true story. If you like true crime dramas (for whatever reason) and can get past the somewhat wooden acting and airy, thin script, you might enjoy this film. I did NOT hate it. It was fun to watch and the story is good. I think my main beef is that it could have been so much better. I feel a bit let down.