Aileen: The Life And Death Of A Serial Killer

on January 09, 2004 by Annlee Ellingson
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At heart an anti-death penalty treatise, this documentary, released two weeks after the lauded Charlize Theron-starring dramatization of the same subject, covers the periods before and after prostitute-turned-serial killer Aileen Wuornos' 1989-1990 crime spree, when she robbed and murdered seven of her customers. Director Nick Broomfield revisits the haunts of Wuornos' horrific youth (which included a pregnancy by rape at age 13, followed by two years of living in the woods) and talks to people who knew her. Broomfield previously made a documentary about Wuornos in 1992 that exposed the gross mishandling of her case by her ex-hippie lawyer and police who were involved in the controversial sale of her story to Hollywood.

Upon her last appeal, Broomfield was called to testify, and his footage was shown in court, a process that this film documents until her execution on October 9, 2002. Wuornos expedited her own death by suddenly confessing to the murders on camera, disowning her previous self-defense claim, while sticking to her original story when she thought film had stopped rolling. It's clear from her accusations of a police conspiracy regarding her crime spree and her belief that she'd be whisked away by aliens upon her death that she was mentally ill. Yet she was cleared by psychological evaluation for execution.

Broomfield's style of filmmaking is familiar by now: He's a big fan of shots from the passenger side of a moving vehicle, documenting his travels throughout his investigation, and he employs an affected naivete that nonetheless secures him major interviews. Still, it's an effective tack, and he makes an entertaining and at times even compelling argument, whatever his topic. Starring Aileen Wuornos and Nick Broomfield. Directed by Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill. Produced by Jo Human. A Lantern Lane release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 89 min

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