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Boston Strangler

Inspired By A True Story

Distributed By: Hulu

Reviewed By: Melissa Minners

               I had been seeing promotional ads for a new film on Hulu based on the true story of the Boston Strangler, a serial killer who is alleged to have killed 13 women in Boston, Massachusetts in the 1960s.  The film starred Keira Knightley.  Being a fan of her work, I was immediately interested.  Lucky for me, my friend was also interested.  We decided to check it out over a dreary Saturday afternoon.

               In 1962, Loretta McLauglin (Keira Knightley) is a female reporter for the Boston Record American.  As a female reporter, she doesn’t get many juicy stories to write, just fashion articles or product reviews.  But Loretta longs for more, especially when she begins to notice a pattern of murders in the Boston area.  Three older woman were attacked, raped and murdered via strangulation, stockings tied around their necks in a bow. 

               At first, Loretta’s boss is not inclined to have her work on these murders.  After all, he has a room full of men working the crime beat, but as Loretta notes that the paper has been repetitively beaten to the punch on crime stories by other papers lately, he relents, assigning her a partner in Jean Cole (Carrie Coon), another female reporter with a keen eye for investigative reporting.  Together, they work on gathering leads and informants, despite the idea that this is no story for “ladies” to cover.

               As time moves forward, a suspect is taken into custody.  Albert DeSalvo confesses to 13 murders, despite the fact that a witness to one of the murders selects a different man from a lineupPolice and the public believe they have the right man, but Loretta eventually discovers a pattern of murders in Ann Arbor, Michigan that match the Boston Strangler’s in Boston.  Could it be that the same person is responsible for all of the murders and that DeSalvo was taking the fall for someone else?  Or is it possible that there are multiple murderers?

               The most I knew about the Boston Strangler was that he was a serial killer that plagued Boston in the 1960s.  I knew that someone confessed to the murders, but that many believed he had not actually been the true killer.  That was all I knew, so it was quite interesting to see how the events played out in this film.  I liked how Boston Strangler actually focused on the female reporters investigating the crimes rather than on the police or the killer himself.  This gave viewers a fresh perspective and one that many, including myself, never knew about.  I had never heard of Loretta McLaughlin or Jean Cole before this film.  I owe that to a sexist hierarchy prevalent in the news networks that too often presents the investigative reporting of male reporters over females. 

               Keira Knightley was excellent in her portrayal of a woman determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, despite the fact that doing so put her in danger and put pressure on her marriage due to long hours spent investigating the multitude of clues and dead-ends that this case consisted of.  Carrie Coon also did an excellent job in presenting the no nonsense attitude of seasoned female reporter Jean Cole.  The rest of the supporting cast did a good job in this film, but really, this was Keira Knightley’s film all the way and I’m okay with that.

               I loved the theory that Boston Strangler puts forth regarding the possibility that the murders were not the work of one killer.  The idea that someone might take advantage of a serial killer’s murder spree by committing a murder of their own and passing it off as a victim of the serial killer at large is not new.  It has happened time and time again, most recently during COVID as some people figured they would use the guise of a pandemic to say that their loved one went missing after saying they were going to a hospital due to illness, when they in fact made that “loved one” disappear.  There is a theory that one of the Boston Strangler’s victims was actually just an office secretary unfortunate enough to have gotten pregnant while in an affair with her murderous, married boss, and not a victim of the serial killer himself. 

               There has been some criticism regarding the tale being less gripping than it could have been.  Well, I’m not so sure I agree.  When Loretta McLaughlin attempts to interview suspect Paul Dempsey (Christian Mallen) the atmosphere, music, and cinematography were enough to send chills up my spine and inspire me to move to the edge of my seat yelling at her to get out of there.  If that’s not the definition of gripping, I don’t know what is.  Perhaps there were not enough of those scenes in there for the critics liking, but I had the distinct impression this movie was meant to be more about the inspirational female investigative reporters on this case than the murders themselves. 

               Someone tried to compare Boston Strangler to Zodiac, which I have also seen.  Yes, that film was gripping and well-acted, but these are very different cases and although Zodiac did put the focus on the reporters and police who tackled the serial killings, they were, quite notably, all men.  Boston Strangler focuses on the lesser-known story of the two female reporters that covered the case at a time when women were not expected to perform investigative reporting into such areas as murder.  This makes the film a must see for all women out there who have been told they are not capable of working such jobs or performing at such an intense level.  But I would recommend Boston Strangler to anyone interested in a fresh perspective on this case…or any perspective for that matter as the Boston Strangler just hasn’t received much movie attention.

Check out Boston Strangler posters on Amazon

and watch the movie now on Hulu!

Published by Melissa Minners

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