Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer

Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer

You sabotaged my ass, society.

Well, now, let’s look at the follow-up. Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer was made as a result of director Nick Broomfield being subpoenaed to serve as a witness in Wuornos’ final appeal process, and deciding to document the process leading up to her ultimate execution, while also exploring more of Wuornos’ life story than he did in his first film; as in, why and what upbringing caused her to commit the crimes she did. He decides to do this largely through interviews with Wuornos, almost the antithesis of the first film, and relies a lot on her to convey her own story. Unfortunately, she seems to be a bit off the rocker leading up to her execution… though, in an unintentionally recorded discussion, she might not be.

Like the first film, this one ultimately has a central theme; that of Wuornos’ deteriorating mental state and the justice system’s willingness to execute a potentially mentally unfit person. What caught my eye was a second theme that seemed to run through the film as well, one that I don’t think Broomfield had intended. It was interesting how the film started off with the director attending the final appeal process, during which he is questioned as to how he puts together his films; specifically the process by which he cuts and pastes (edits) his films, in particular the first Wuornos film he did. He then follows this up with an interview segment requested by Wuornos herself, during which she attempts to “come clean” and say her peace in an unbroken take; Wuornos specifically starts out the take used in the film to explain that she has tried this before but wasn’t able to get it all out the way she wanted it, and that she wanted one more go to get it down right. She begins speaking, continues for a good minute/minute-and-a-half, and then… Broomfield cuts, noticeably skipping a segment of Wuornos’ diatribe. Immediately, I knew that most of my review about this film, and in retrospect his first film, would be about the viewpoint that Broomfield is attempting to take, or even push on us, as he goes along. Ultimately, when you think about this and the first Wuornos documentary, the one that made the case that those around Wuornos were only attempting to gain and profit from her situation, you can’t help but consider just how Broomfield himself could potentially be gaining from the experience of documenting Wuornos and her life story.

So, if you’ve seen the first one, is this one worth seeing? Well, maybe; it’s worth seeing as a literal conclusion to the life story of “America’s first female serial killer”, but a lot of the footage is repeated from the first film, so it might be a little redundant. This, however, also makes it so, unless you’re a list completionist, you pretty much only need to see this one if you’re interested enough to seek one of them out. I don’t know if this is really a must see experience, but it was a nicely done documentary, albeit an admittedly skewed one. I’m not sure why the editors of the list felt compelled to have this representation on there, but I was able to get through the whole thing with no problems (twice), and that’s a lot more than I can say for other documentaries, so I guess I’m okay with it.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

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2 thoughts on “Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer

  1. I was amused by how desperately the filmmaker wanted to keep believing that Wuornos was an innocent victim in all of this – even to the point of pissing her off by continually asking her questions she had answered that he didn’t like the answers to. The only time in the entire film where she comes across as lucid is when she admits she was lying at her trials and that she killed the men, not for self defense or even for the thrill of it, but simply to eliminate witnesses to her crimes of stealing from the men.

    Did she have a crappy life? Absolutely. Did she get crappy legal advice the first time around? Absolutely. Did she kill seven men over only a few months? Absolutely. I might buy that the first one was self defense. I might possibly buy a second one, years later, was also self defense, but I don’t think anyone would buy seven murders in less than a year, all committed in the same remote location, is anything other than murder.

    • See, I got almost the opposite impression from that moment, where she just straight up says she killed the men and discounts her previous excuses. It was by that point in her story that she knew there was, in her words, a “1% chance” at most that she’d get off death row, and by a certain point in the film she basically admits she cannot stand to continue living in the circumstances she is living in and would much rather just get to her execution and get on with it, so to me, that moment where she basically up and admits to everything was her trying to stop all the bullshit, “Is she culpable to the murders,” “Was it self defense,” “Is she mentally fit to be executed,” and just expedite the legal process to get herself executed as fast as possible, without all the red tape that had been coming from lawyers trying to defend her from various allegations. Whether or not what she said was true wasn’t really the point, and honestly, even if it was true, I believe she was in full belief that what she was saying before, in terms of the self-defense pleas and rationalizing the following murders, was the truth, even if it was just to find an excuse that her own mind would accept, other than that she’s just a cold-blooded killer.

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