Paleo Retiree writes:
Low-budget documentary about Charlie Otero, a Wichita native whose parents and a couple of whose siblings were murdered in 1974 by “BTK,” a Wichita-based murderer who went on to become Kansas’ most notorious serial killer. It’s a rarity — a serial-killer/true-crime doc focused not on the killer or the investigation, but on someone who has endured family members being murdered. When you think about it, it seems odd that the subject should be dealt with so seldom.
Marc Levitz’ film could be criticized for not being slick or clear enough — it’s sometimes hard to know who’s who, what order events happened in, why a behavior is being highlighted, even what’s being said. But I took it more as poetry than as history or journalism anyway — as something rather like “Be Here to Love Me,” Margaret Brown’s very touching movie about the Texas country-folk singer Townes Van Zandt. After all, if and when you want clearly presented facts, there’s always the web to turn to — Wikipedia and much else.
As an evocative thing, “I Survived BTK” is far more crude (even home-movie-esque) than the artful and delicate “Be Here to Love Me.” You might compare its style to strung-out, obsessive, garage band-style rock — there’s a lot of wailing and agitation, murk and muddle. But it’s also undeniably powerful. It’s about how losing loved ones to a horrific, stupid crime can fuck a life up. To all appearances a soulful, decent guy, Charlie has spent years wrestling with booze and drugs, and even in the best of times lives a motorcycles-and-trailer-homes, sub-blue-collar, lost-in-the-fringes kind of life. The movie’s turbulent messiness, even Levitz’s often lopsided organizational choices, convey how the emotions set off by such a crime (rage, hurt, sorrow, impotence) can make a life careen out of control.
A great stroke of luck for the filmmaker: as he was shooting his film about Charlie (mostly in New Mexico), the pyscho who went by the handle BTK was finally apprehended back in Wichita. So we get some glimpses of the murderer, and we get to accompany Charlie as he reconnects with his surviving siblings, returns to Kansas, attends court and copes with the tough new emotions the murderer’s arrest sets off. What a strange and hard hand of cards some people have been dealt.
FWIW, The Question Lady and I have both recently been struck by the same thought — that these new documentaries are now playing the culture-role that long reported pieces in Esquire, The New Yorker, Harper’s and Rolling Stone used to play: they’re enhancing the news by conveying what experiences we know mostly through headlines are actually like.
We watched “I Survived BTK” on Netflix Streaming. I see that it’s also available (for $3.99) on Amazon Instant.