A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Nilsen wants us to believe that his actions aren't immoral but should be judged by some other standard, if at all.
Positive Role Models
Nilsen was a remorseless killer.
Dennis Nilsen was gay, and all his victims were young men he brought home for sex and/or murder. Not all of his victims were gay, but because of the circumstances of their attacks, those who survived encounters with Nilsen were presumed by the police to be gay and treated with disdain when they tried to report Nilsen's crimes. A disgusted police officer observes that it was only when the disposed-of body parts clogged the drain of a building where Nilsen lived and people were inconvenienced by the blockage that anyone did anything about the murderer who lived upstairs. Reporters, attorneys, and police officers talk about the institutional homophobia that gay people faced in the 1980s, far harsher than prejudices today, they suggest.
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Violence & Scariness
This is about a serial murderer. Graphic descriptions of his methods are included. A woman whose straight, drug-addicted estranged husband was a victim was informed by a reporter exactly how her husband was murdered and how he was sexually defiled after his death. Descriptions are given of bonfires used to reduce victims' bodies to disposable ash. A yard is combed for pieces of bone and teeth of victims. Bodies are found rotting under floorboards. Nilsen reveals two sacksful of human remains in his closet. Two severed heads were found, one having been boiled in a pot. Police describe an "awful smell" at Nilsen's home. A plumber is called when a building's plumbing is clogged. He finds four fingers and other human flesh in the pipes. A grandfather is described as a pedophile who abused a child under the age of 5. Nilsen kept at least on corpse around to masturbate on.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Nilsen took home young men he picked up in gay bars. Many needed a meal and a place to sleep. After sex, he killed most of them.
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"Pee," "rent boy," and "masturbate."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A victim is a drug addict. Nilsen smokes a "marijuana cigarette" in prison and gets high. In some cases, Nilsen plies his victims with alcohol and then attacks.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes tells the story of one of Britain's most infamous serial killers, Dennis Nilsen. After a murderous spree from the late 1970s to the 1980s, he not only revealed that he'd murdered and buried around 15 men, many of them never identified, but his story also laid bare the crushing institutional prejudice harbored by police and other authorities against homosexuality in Britain at the time. Male victims who survived and reported Nilsen's acts were victimized again -- ignored or ridiculed by police for being gay. That police negligence allowed Nilsen to murder for years longer. Language includes "pee" and "rent boy." Graphic descriptions of Nilsen's methods are offered. He often picked up young homeless men in gay bars, then after plying them with alcohol and having sex with them, he sometimes strangled and sometimes drowned victims, then dismembered them. The movie recounts many horrifying ways he disposed of body parts, under floorboards, in plastic bags, buried in the garden, and clogging the plumbing. Nilsen kept at least on corpse around to masturbate on. A grandfather is described as a pedophile who abused a child under the age of 5. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This documentary is fascinating but also difficult to watch. What Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes does a good job of conveying is the way society has demonstrated as little remorse about abandoning runaways, the homeless, and gay people as Nilsen had about killing such marginalized members of the community. For five years, people who seemingly didn't matter to anyone were being killed and dismembered and no one raised a finger to stop Nilsen. Harte organizes the material well, but it's difficult to get past the heinous nature of the crimes and the boastfulness and self importance of the title character.
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