Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer

Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer
Film review by: Witney Seibold

What a sad story.

Aileen Wuornos, a truckstop prostitute, murdered seven of her johns in 1989-‘90, and was billed as the country’s first female serial killer. I won’t relate details, in case you plan on seeing Patty Jenkins’ film “Monster.” A fantastic companion to that film, though, is Nick Broomfield’s follow-up documentary “Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer,” which traces the last few months of Wuornos’ life before her execution. It’s a tragic film that reveals just how cocked the system can be, how the truth is difficult to find, and, ultimately, how sad it is to see a poor ragged woman, long ago destroyed, no longer holding onto sanity, simply discarded by the justice system. She was executed in Florida in October 2002.

Broomfield made a documentary back in 1992 called “Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of Serial Killer.” That first film traced the trials of Wuornos, her inept lawyer convincing her to plead guilty despite her persistence on self-defense, her naïve born-again adoptive mother trying to squeeze money out of interviews, and, ultimately, a scandal involving the police and prison guards having had already made book and film deals. We left Aileen on death row with seven death sentences.

In this new film, her execution now imminent, Aileen has changed her story that she actually murdered in cold blood, not self-defense, and that she can’t wait to be “taken away.” She also claims that the cops “allowed” her to kill six more people after the first murder, kind of to do their dirty work for them. It’s in a quiet moment, when she thinks that the cameras are turned off, that she reveals that she still believes she killed in self-defense.

It’s sad. Aileen Wuornos is clearly crazy. In the twelve years she was on death row her delusions grew to obvious proportions (she claimed that “sonic pressure” was being beamed into her cell). She is not well. Her eyes dart. Her smiles break out of her face uncontrolled. She is suffering because of all this. Broomfield, who was thrust back into Aileen’s life in the form of a subpoena upon her final appeal (his 1992 film was presented as evidence), seems to be the only one asking the important questions among this entire circus of untruths and insanity. Really, it’s a film less about Wuornos herself than America’s odd obsession with executing prisoners (We kill more prisoners than any other country) A sticky subject to be sure, but presented with importance and human face in this film. If you’ve ever debated the death penalty, see this film.
As for Aileen, mourn.

Published in: on August 26, 2009 at 10:26 am  Leave a Comment  

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