Weaver's Murder Mimicking Hunter
I'm death and life to you, doc... death and life - Daryll Lee Cullum
Released back in 1995 Jon Amiel's "Copycat" sadly never achieved the popularity that it deserves, mainly down to David Fincher's genre advancing "Se7en" being released a few months earlier. At the time "Se7en" definitely set a new bench march when it came to thrillers, and because "Copycat" was very much in the traditional sense of the genre it seemed less than amazing or spectacular. But with both a clever storyline as well as good performances from Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter "Copycat" is a competent thriller.
Several months after finding herself the victim of a violent attack from a serial killer, respected psychologist Dr. Helen Hudson (Sigourney Weaver - Dave) is thrust back into the world of the mass murderer when detective Monahan (Holly Hunter - Always) calls on her help to work out who this new murderer is. Except Hudson is now a house bound agoraphobic with a liking for a drink and with the new serial killer imitating other more notorious murderers such as the Boston Strangler, finding him before he commits more murderers is not proving easy especially when it becomes personal.
"Copycat" is a thriller very much in the true sense of the word, it builds up characters, tension and intrigue from start to finish and keeps you glued to the action so that you don't miss the next twist, pivotal moment or murder. What also makes it an interesting movie is that it has many layers such as Dr. Helen Hudson who having been targeted by a serial killer now lives in fear of the outside world, then there is the relationships between the various detectives and the most interesting element, the serial killer who is trying to grab attention by imitating other notorious serial killers. "Copycat" certainly packs a lot in, balancing each of them so they combine making for a very effective movie which at just past the 2 hour mark is the perfect length.
Unlike many modern thrillers "Copycat" is of that age where gore and graphical violence had not intruded on the movie. When we learn who the next victim is we never get to see the actual death, with the movie preferring to build up the expectation of the forthcoming crime and then usually showing us the aftermath, either directly or through various crime scene photographs. It works well, because by not showing us the murder taking place it allows our own imaginations to freak us out by the apparent gruesomeness.
As for the actual serial killer well although not overly original by having them imitate other more notorious serial killers it does make for an interesting game of cat and mouse between him and the detectives as he is always one step ahead. I did have to question whether revealing the identity of the serial killer before the end would work, but it does as not only does it stop all the questioning over who's it going to be but builds up the excitement when ever you see them appear in a scene.
One of the most critical reasons as to why "Copycat" works is the central characters and the performances from a group of stars who are on top of their game. Take the character of Dr. Helen Hudson who having studied the behaviour of serial killers proclaims "I'm their damn pin-up girl". It's a great character because having been targeted herself by a killer she has gone from this forthright professional to a housebound agoraphobic exhibiting a fragile side yet with all the fight of someone with immense knowledge leading on to frustration at her own limits. It really is a great character and the performance from Sigourney Weaver makes it extremely believable. When you see her trying to reach the paper outside her apartment using a broom because she is that terrified of the outside world speaks volumes, but then do the moments where she suffers panic attacks or reaches for another glass of alcohol.
Equally Holly Hunter's portrayal of Detective Monahan is as good with a character which has more layers than your average detective. One moment she is in control, the next friendly, then slightly volatile, it's a character which drags you in and combined with the tension between her and Dr. Hudson makes for some very entrtaining interactions, going from fiery to emotional. Between Hunter and Weaver they make "Copycat" a very good thriller, much better than many critics give it credit for.
What slightly fails to work is an underlying romantic sub plot featuring Detective Monahan, Detective Goetz played by Dermot Mulroney and Nicoletti played by Will Patton. The performances of Patton and Mulroney are solid it's just the storyline doesn't always work. It certainly helps to build up both Holly Hunter's Character as well as Sigourney Weaver's but then is never fully explored or capitalized on.
As for the actual serial killers well lets just say that you either going to love or hate Harry Connick Jr's Daryll Lee Cullum in the sense of whether you feel he is effective as a serial killer. Personally it works for me as although comes across as a dumb red-neck there is something more about the character which lies beneath which gets explored more in later scenes. It's not a brilliant performance but one which will certainly give you the creeps.
What this all boils down to is that as thrillers go, especially those which focus on the work of the serial killer, "Copycat" has to be one of my favourites. With a clever storyline, brilliant characters and performances which do the movie credit it is definitely one to watch.
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