H.H. Holmes Documentary Review

H_H_HolmesH.H. Holmes America’s First Serial Killer. Reviewed by Brian Kirst


“Before, there was so much more freedom and privacy, and you could truly escape places.” – musician Conor Oberst

H.H. Holmes probably couldn’t exist today. But in the late 19th century, in the days before intensive DNA
investigating and maverick internet exploration, Holmes built an undetected, mysterious chamber of tortures in the bustling city of Chicago and then wove a criss-crossing web of terror across the Mid-West before finally being captured.

Director John Borowski skillfully builds the story of Holmes through legitimate source material, dramatic
reenactments and commentary made by mental health experts and researchers.

While Holmes was indeed active during the 1893 World’s Fair (a period made infamous by the popular book, The Devil in the White City), most chilling is the revelation of his final crimes – the widespread murder of several children of a former associate (whom Holmes also murdered). Listening to the contents of one slaughtered daughter’s last letter to her mother instills both sorrow and fear – a testament to Borowski’s fine skill and sense of dramatic balance as a filmmaker.

Borowski also builds a compelling portrait of a damaged mind in his second feature, Albert Fish. An even more polished effort (showing his growth as a filmmaker), Fish tells of the tale of elderly, sadomasochistic Fish who inflicted tortures not only on others but himself as well.

The description of the cannabilistic fate of one of Fish’s young female victims and his own pin yielding self tortures bring both a sense of shivering fright and slight awe – making one look forward to Borowski’s next adventures in the land of mass murdering filmmaking.


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