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Aileen: Life & Death of a Serial Killer - documentary DVD review
Aileen: Life & Death of a Serial Killer rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 3 stars
Actors: Aileen Wuornos, Nick Broomfield, Jeb Bush
Director: Nick Broomfield & Joan Churchill   Studio: Columbia Tristar
DVD release: 01 June 2004   Runtime: 89 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD features: Subtitles (French), Audio tracks (English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), "Monster" trailer

Nick Broomfield, the man who gave us Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, now delivers a sequel to his 1992 documentary with Aileen: Life & Death of a Serial Killer. This thoroughly engrossing documentary follows the appeals process and, ultimately, the execution of Aileen Wuornos in 2002.

I can easily separate entertainment from journalism, and this documentary is like many others trying to push its slanted point of view - but that is not necessarily a negative in terms of its entertainment value. You are riveted to the screen as you watch Aileen and others talk about her misdoings, the murders, her life and assorted struggles. It's a very entertaining, disturbing piece, depending on where you sit on the political hot button issue of capital punishment, as well as many other issues this documentary brings to light.
The question is ultimately - should we have sympathy for the devil? If half the things in this documentary were true, you might, just might be able to wrap your sane mind around the idea that there is only so much abuse one person can take before exploding in anger. Maybe. Even if you reason that Aileen was made into a monster, not born one, does that forgive her for seven murders? Hard to say anyone deserves a pass on that.

The story of sexual abuse Aileen endured starting at the age of nine from the local pedophile, her brother, and local boys along with physical abuse at the hands of her grandfather is heart-wrenching. She lived in the woods by her house for two years and got pregnant at thirteen, not to mention the years of hooking and hitchhiking taking its toll. This kind of abuse has to leave deep-rooted emotional scarring. Aileen was a heavily traumatized and mentally ill woman who, toward the end of the documentary, seems to have real paranoid delusions, alternately scary and sad. She did need to be incarcerated for life; as she stated herself, "If you don't kill me, I'll get out and kill again." The debate on executing her is up to the individual to decide. Watch and examine your own opinions.

The biggest problem lies in determining actual proof and credibility. You don't know when to believe or not believe what Aileen says at any given time. Was she a criminal mastermind able to pull on your sympathies? She readily admitted that she lied in open court with testimony that seemed pretty credible when watching the footage. I'm still up in the air on what to and not to believe - from anyone involved. But let's leave that aside, as she was a mentally ill person.

Broomfield himself comes off as na´ve, incessantly asking Aileen "Was it self defense?" That was his agenda: to portray her as insane - which is easy to do because when she gets angry, she really does look like a monster. This obvious bias and lack of professionalism casts aspersions on the validity of anything said in this documentary - especially when Broomfield is summoned to testify regarding footage of his previous film, which shows a terrible edit and elicits a "dog ate my homework" response from him. His credibility goes out the window at that point. At times it seems as though everyone involved wanted their fifteen minutes of fame, ironic since Aileen states emphatically several times that everyone involved wanted this to happen so they can make money off of books and movies - which of course happened with the hit movie Monster starring Charlize Theron; the trailer to that movie is included on the DVD.

When you get past Broomfield's pathetic na´vety, this documentary is at, the very least, very entertaining. Take what's presented here with a grain a salt; this is far too complex for a simple black and white answer, when so many other people have gone through even more horrendous lives and haven't committed murder. Aileen seemed to have tragedy written all over it from the get go. But it's even sadder that this documentary can be seen in the same exploitative light as the people it criticizes.
reviewed by Bobby Blades
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