Boston Strangler (2023) 


Who can you trust? Would you open your door to just anyone? Thirteen women in Boston did just that in the 1960s and wound up dead... assaulted and strangled, with their killer leaving their pantyhose tied around their neck in a decorative bow. The resulting manhunt created a journalistic fiasco, which this film touches on through the eyes of the two female reporters who first broke the story and connected seemingly random cases to label a serial killer in their midst.


Despite working for a reputable newspaper (albiet one frequently "scooped"), Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley) is stuck behind a desk, writing about how good or bad new toasters are, when she stumbles across and cuts out an interesting tidbit in a newspaper: a woman strangled in her apartment. A frequent snipper of such articles of interest, Loretta compares the clipping to two other recent crimes -- she recognizes a pattern immediately: all three women were elderly, lived alone, and died in a similar way. She pleads with her reluctant boss (Chris Cooper) for a chance to break this story, and he agrees -- but only if she does it on her own time. In gathering evidence, she unearths another pattern -- all three women had pantyhose knotted around their necks. The story drops. A serial killer is terrorizing Boston and targeting senior women inside their homes. The police deny everything she said, but she kicks up enough of a fuss, her boss puts a "senior" reporter with her on the case, Jean Cole (Carrie Coon).


An old pro at dealing with witnesses, suspects, and digging up information, Jean helps her find other leads... but the bodies keep mounting up in Boston, and what frustrates Loretta the most is, it makes no sense. The serial killer has changed his pattern. Now it's young women too. And as her boss sees the potential in exploiting the situation by putting two women journalists on the case, creepy stuff starts happening in Loretta's life. Odd phone calls with heavy breathing in the background. Dark alleys with sinister men at the end of them. As her career "blows up," her husband starts resenting how little time she spends at home tending the kids. But Loretta can't let this go. There's too many unanswered questions, and her theory upsets the cops. She thinks this isn't the work of one man, but several. Or is it?


If you're familiar with the case, you know that... nobody knows for sure. Many of the cases are officially unsolved, because they just stopped. Now, whether that happened because the killer died in prison or skipped town, we don't know. The film does a good job f taking us through the case, tracking facts and details, bringing suspicions to light, and engaging us in the lives of its main characters. It highlights the subtle sexism of the era without over-relying on it or getting fussy about it. And there are some scary scenes that made me get up and shut the curtain. For being about a serial killer, the content is tasteful (if harrowing to think about, since it deals with rape) and the R-rating seems a bit extreme. Keira Knightley turns in another great performance, as a hard-hitting journalist just learning the ropes of perilous journalism (as opposed to testing toasters in the break room) who is ambitious but not always wise. She has a good supporting cast.


The story follows most of the actual crime events and particulars rather well, although one suspect is a compilation of several different people they suspected at the time, but could never prove were involved. I liked how they contrasted Jean's laid back approach to life with Loretta's visceral intensity, and the scene in which she finds a stranger outside her home is one of the best, in terms of cinematic suspense. Since we know nothing for sure, it doesn't answer all our questions, but arouses our interest in this unsolved "solved" crime. It's a solid movie, but not one I'll watch more than a couple of times.


Sexual Content
The women are raped and strangled, but never on-screen; we hear about it later. Briefly, as Loretta walks down a boarding house corridor, she overhears a couple having sex (moaning and thumping). Women are found in various states of undress and appear that way in crime scene photos (bras and panties); we see one woman posed with a broom handle between her legs. A cop discreetly implies she was violated with it.
Two f-words, four abuses of Jesus/Christ's name, several uses of sh*t and ass----.
We overhear women being attacked/assaulted several times (they are in the other room, screaming or crying out, and we hear thumps); we see one woman held down and strangled. A man follows another man into a prison cell and stabs him many times. Crime scene photos. Several glimpses of bodies in states of undress and/or violence.


Social drinking.

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