Killer with a Smile
Truck driver Keith Hunter Jesperson (David Arquette - Scream 4) has memories of doing some very sick things to animals when he was a child but has managed to control his depraved urges. That is until he returns home from one of his trucking jobs to find his wife has gone and she has taken his children with him, not that it was too much of a shock as it had been on the cards. But it pushes him over the edge and when he picks up a woman in a bar she ends up becoming the first victim of his rage, leaving her dead body with a happy face drawn on her skin with her own blood. It leads to not only the start of a police/FBI hunt for the man who is labelled the happy face killer but it also leads to Jesperson documenting his own killing spree. But when a woman says her husband is the happy face killer and is charged it annoys Jesperson even more that someone is taking credit for his killing spree, leading to him leaving messages for FBI agent Melinda Gand (Gloria Reuben - Reasonable Doubt).
Describing a drama based on the true story of a serial killer as being entertaining kind of feels wrong but "Happy Face Killer" is an entertaining but only ever ordinary movie. It walks the audience through the murder spree of Keith Hunter Jesperson, introducing each of the women he killed whilst giving us the endeavours of an FBI agent who is determined to catch the killer even though her superiors think the man they already have in custody is the killer. Basically, beyond the actual murders the way that "Happy Face Killer" has been put together is typical of this sort of made for TV movie and as such there is almost a sense of it being a procession to Jesperson's inevitable capture, a scene which in itself is not bad.
But what "Happy Face Killer" has going in its favour is David Arquette who has a way of delivering the confusion and conflict of a man processing his thoughts through his facial movements. It works because it brings out the turmoil and split personality of Jesperson as at times we get this nice guy who dreamed of being a Canadian Mountie and other times was just sick in the head. On the subject of which, whilst "Happy Face Killer" isn't in your face when showing Jesperson's depraved acts it doesn't shy away from being suggestive, especially when it comes to flash back scenes of what he did to animals as a child.
What this all boils down to is that "Happy Face Killer" is a solid drama based on the true story of a serial killer. It is both interesting and entertaining; owing a lot to the casting of David Arquette for that but at the same time in style it is sadly routine.