Based on a true story, The Hillside Strangler elaborates the events that took place in Los Angeles, California during the late 70s. The plot of the crime thriller revolves around a string of killings in the region that left Los Angeles terrified. It elaborates the stories of the perpetrators of these crimes, Kenneth Bianchi (played by C. Thomas Howell) and Angelo Buono, Jr. (portrayed by Nicholas Turturro). Their modus operandi and the dumping ground for their victims, earned the murderer cousins the name of ‘The Hillside Stranglers’ from the press.
Directed by Chuck Parello and written by Stephen Johnston, the movie tracks the life of Kenneth Bianchi and is journey from a regular security guard to one of the most notorious serial killers of America. The story starts in Rochester, NY, where Kenneth Bianchi lives with his mother and has a long time dream of becoming a police officer. However, despite all his efforts, he is not able to get into the Rochester Police Force. He is then advised by his mother to make a fresh start and move in with his cousin, Angelo Buono, who stays in Glendale, California. His cousin works at an auto repair shop and is a degenerate personality. Bianchi again tries his luck to get entry into the Glendale Police force but to no avail. His environment slowly starts to bring about the dark side of his personality as he sets up a fake counseling practice built over the lie of being a psychology major. Bianci comes to love the era of sexual liberation in the city of the stars.
In the meanwhile, he also becomes quite a ladies’ man with a steady stream of women going in and out of his life. He even gets one of his girlfriends, Claire Shelton (played by Allison Lange), pregnant. When Claire moves in with him it becomes difficult for him to maintain the string of affairs he had. He becomes obsessed with sex and also hungry for more money. This is when his cousin, Buono, pitches him the idea to run a prostitution business to earn a quick buck and make two girls join their racket. However, their idea falls flat when the seasoned players in the business threaten them to clear off their turf.
The cousins find out that one of the girls from their crew had ratted them out. They are furious and take it out on the girl by raping and killing her in their car. This is when the evil in them completely takes over and they actually enjoy the act. They feel excited by the brutality of murder. They had to experience it again. Now, they did not need any reason or motivation. They only killed for the thrill, for the high that it gave them. This starts a series of heinous rapes and murders of women in Los Angeles. The city was also gripped by the fear of the insanity. Moreover, what added fuel to the fire was when the police forces learnt that the killers were approaching the victims on the ruse of being cops. They started with prostitutes but soon graduated to high-risk victims. The abduction, rape and torture of their victims left every woman in the area scared for her life.
The movie was released in 2004 and earned good reviews. C. Thomas Howell, was especially appreciated for his portrayal of the cold blooded Kenneth Bianci. The movie tells the story from the eyes of the criminals. This was definitely one of the darkest hours of the city and the movie portrays it well.