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‘Alphabet Killer’ Thrills on DVD

Dushku in The Alphabet Killer

By Kyra Kudick | Posted: 30 Dec 2008

Anchor Bay Entertainment Jan. 6 releases The Alphabet Killer (DVD $26.97), starring Eliza Dushku (Wrong Turn, Bring It On), Cary Elwes (Saw, The Princess Bride) and Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People).

The film is a psychological thriller loosely based on the unsolved case of a 1970s serial killer in Rochester, N.Y., who raped and killed victims with double-initial names and then dumped their bodies in towns beginning with the same letter.

Writer/producer Tom Malloy (The Attic), who also co-stars in the film, said the initial idea for the story came from his wife.

“I wanted to write another horror film, and my wife is from Rochester — and if you were from Rochester you knew about this case — and I thought man, there is a story here,” Malloy said.

But Malloy didn’t want to focus strictly on the case itself. “Police procedurals are everywhere,” he said. “I was more interested in showing the internal battle of man vs. himself.”

To that end, the focus of the story is a fictional female detective (Dushku) who becomes increasingly obsessed with solving the case and has a psychotic break, resulting in a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Malloy said the idea for a schizophrenic character came from the strong connection between letters and numbers throughout the case. “Schizophrenics have a very tough time with letters and numbers, so in a way her illness gives her an insight [into the case],” he said.

Dushku became involved in the project for virtually the same reason Malloy created it.

“I am always interested in stories that have to do with variations in the human condition,” she said. “People are fascinated with what is insane. What does it feel like? What does it look like? That drew me into [the project], wondering what it would be like to experience it.”

The film looks stark and cold, shot on location in Rochester during the winter months, and Dushku’s physical appearance in the film seems to mirror her environment, overly thin, haggard, with bags under her eyes — a departure from her usual Hollywood glam look.

“It was not a lip-glossy role,” Dushku said with a chuckle. “It was about this woman and this story.

“It was really freeing,” she added. “I would show up at work, skip the hair and makeup, and get into the meat and the character — trying to get into the head space of this person.”

When it came to casting the villain in the film, Malloy asked himself about the head space of his audience: “How can I throw people off, knowing they will be playing detective in their heads?”

His answer was to “cast as many psychos as [he] could” in supporting roles throughout the film, so the number of actors who have previously played villains makes guessing the outcome a challenge. 

Special features include audio commentary with producer Isen Robbins and director Rob Schmidt, a separate audio commentary with Malloy, the featurette “A to Z: The Making of The Alphabet Killer” and an alternate scene.

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