Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Assassination of Gianni Versace and Toronto's Serial Killer





I do not claim any of these photos on this blog as mine. They are popular images from the internet from the show "The Assassination of Gianni Versace" which is on FX on Wednesday nights. 

The Assassination of Gianni Versace will be spoiled so don't read any more if you don't want the show spoiled for you. 

You have been warned.

It has been chilling to watch the mini-series The Assassination of Gianni Versace here in Toronto as our own real-life serial killer has been unmasked.

Before I get into my musings about the American Crime Story TV series by Ryan Murphy, which is based on the true story of a serial killer who murdered Versace, I will talk a bit about what’s happening here in Toronto.

I’ve been meaning to write about the Versace mini-series for a long time but I’ve also been deeply disturbed by events here in Toronto, so I’ve been putting it off a bit.

Killer in The Village
For many years, there have been men missing in Toronto. Gay men, homeless men, men addicted to various substances, and so on. Most of the missing men have been gay or people of colour in or around an area known as “The Village” or “The Gay Village” or “Church and Wellesley” or “The Triangle”. So, fingers in The Community point to a police department that may or may not have been as vigilant as they could have been. 

A man missing last spring, Andrew Kinsmen, particularly drew up publicity as his family kept hope alive that he would be found. Like many of the missing men, Andrew was a kind, lovely soul who would do anything for anyone. I suspect that was the serial killer’s “type” as well as the physical look. 

Many of the men have a similar “look” despite what colour their skin might be. As far as I can tell, most have been described as the type who would give you the shirt off their back, despite other issues they may have had. 

Andrew’s family constantly banged the drum about his disappearance: flyers, posters, social media, the news, etc. I always thought he was the victim of a serial killer as I felt a punch in my gut the first time I saw his picture on the news. I thought about other missing men from that area and sensed a connection. Most observant people had similar ideas, and we had them long before Andrew was lost.

Decades of Missing Men
For years people have been missing but hey, Toronto is a big city, people come and go. Some people go under the radar and like it there. However, people like Andrew don’t just up and disappear. And it seems like there have been a few people live him over the years who have done just that. 

There have mostly been gay men but there are also some suspicious deaths of women and trans women and men that never have been solved and cases just quietly disappear, if anyone knew about them to begin with. Of course, as a horror writer, my mind always spins a story when I hear news, but back then, I hoped Andrew and the others would one day turn up alive somewhere.

Around the time Versace aired, a man was named a suspect in the Toronto killings. I won’t say his name, he sickens me to the core. He looks like f**king Santa Claus and actually did work as one now and again. At first, it seemed like there may be one or two deaths this man was responsible for. However, today, six bodies have been found. I don’t doubt by the end of it all, there will be twenty or more.

Toronto's Serial Killer
Toronto’s serial killer hung out on dating sites and obviously in The Village even though he was apparently banned from it years ago. Toronto’s serial killer is a gardener, a landscaper. What a great job for a serial killer. 

Landscaper
He had a host of clients and kept his tools stored at other people’s homes. He was a quiet man. Hell, I’ve had a couple of friends tell me they have friends who are friends with him and their minds are BLOWN. So now, many homes have been dug up all around Ontario. Before today with the grisly six different men’s remains discovered in a backyard, other remains of three other people (the same people?) were found in various planters. 

This is the just the beginning. 

There are many more planters and yards to get through across Ontario and who knows where else. Right now, it’s minus 11 in Toronto and has been that cold or colder for a couple of months. It’s weirdly cold this year. Generators were brought in to warm up the ground for the painstaking excavation of evidence or potential evidence.

It’s sad and horrific. Andrew was identified today as one of the victims in the yard.







Versace Mini-Series Thoughts
So with that in mind, watching the Versace mini-series, about a serial killer who preyed on gay men, I feel doubly creeped out, a bit guilty watching it, yet at the same time, hyper aware that Versace and the other victims are not works of fiction either, but were real live people as well.

I want to recognize that I know a lot of people portrayed in the mini-series aren’t happy about how they come off and so on, and I’ve noticed lots of disclaimers about the artistic use of dialogue etc. I’m not naive and I think most viewers aren’t. We know it’s a fictionalized version that facts are dramatized for the story. Look at all the alone scenes, no one knows what really happened, who said what or thought what. When I’m watching the show, I watch it like a docudrama. I know it’s not all real but a lot of it is.

And so far, I love it so the estate and so on shouldn’t worry about any of it.






I still remember hearing when Versace was shot in front of his mansion and the outpouring of grief from the public. It was mind-blowing. It was one of the first times that someone as famous as Versace was murdered like that. It was the third big one for me in the way my life worked and the news I heard. First was John Lennon, then Rebecca Schaefer, and then Versace.

It wasn’t like I was a fan of Versace or anything like that. I wasn’t not a fan either but I knew who he was for sure. Peak of his career with so much more to go. An amazing story of self-made man who loved what he did. Shot dead out of the blue by some crazy asshole.

I remember learning about Andrew Cunanan. So when I heard there was a mini-series about it all, I wanted to see it and see what spin it would have. I was over the moon when I heard Finn Wittrock was playing one of the victims.



David Madson (Cody Fern) episode.

The way the show is structured is that we are working on a backwards timeline. Versace was murdered first and now we’re going back to all the victims before him. At first, I wasn’t sure if I would like that, wondering if the suspense was going to be lost, but in fact, I quite like it.

Last night, Jeffrey Trail (Finn Wittrock) was murdered at the beginning and we follow Andrew gaslighting and brainwashing David throughout the episode. It was an amazing story and the more I think about it, the more I just can’t think about it. Cody Fern was amazing playing a man who wants to do what’s right but his character is so gentle, he can’t, but we understand and feel great empathy for him. We really want him to go, to break free but he has Stockholme Syndrome or is in shock or whatever happened. We'll never know what really happened in real life but this was a sympathetic version. 

I thought his death was great, but I wished it had ended with him with his dad and then showing Andrew standing over his dead body with the gun instead of going back to the chase. It felt clunky and took a bit of the tension and grief away as I already knew he was shot and didn’t go into the cabin.  But it’s from scenes like David’s death dream where we recognize that this is a fictional show and not a documentary. Who knows what David thought as he died? We don’t know. The writers made it up. And it was good and worked though a tiny bit corny and totally predictable. But it’s TV and it worked.

In fact, we don’t know anything at all in real life about what happened when Andrew hammered Jeffrey in the head. It’s all pretend because no one who wrote the show was there.



Next week, we’ll meet Finn Wittrock’s character in more detail and see what happened there. It sounded like they were together a few years, so I wonder when the killing began? With Jeffrey’s hammer in the head death? Were there previous deaths? I don’t want to Google it. I forget the details of the case, if the story is even following it. I’ll wait to Google everything after the series is over.

Casual Thoughts
Up until this week, I had noticed some repeated themes in how the show is shot.

Stairs are used a lot. People are always going up and down or standing on them. And many of the staircases are not your run of the mill set of stairs. There are stair cases over people's shoulders, etc.

Pillars are used a lot to frame or cut up shots. Tunnels and hallways.

There are a lot of fences and gates. People are shot through chain link, wrought iron, and so on.

Mirrors are used really well especially in the first few episodes where it was all about fashion, appearances, masks and superficial ideas.

The Florida motels and many scenes were pink tinged like the inside of a perfume bottle. I kept thinking of pink flamingos. It added to the sense of claustrophobia, everything caving in. I also imagine most Florida motels back then were indeed decorated as such.

Last night, I noticed that a lot of the usual visuals weren’t there but there were different ones, simpler ones, as if to show the less opulent life.

A lot of shots through windows, looking through windows, breaking windows, framing the shot through a part of a window.

Last night, I loved how the dog stood in front of the body for many shots. I think sometimes it might have been a stuffed dog but most of the time, he stood amazingly still to break up the shot and hide the body mess.

The sound of the scrubbing, the long uncomfortable shots. There's a lot that makes this a more horrifying show than American Horror Story!

In last week’s episode with Judith Light, I enjoyed how it ended with her talking to the red light of the camera as if it was her husband. In Roanoke, there was a lot made of the red light of the camera. I think other AHS episodes mention it as well. It was a nice little nod.


Darren Criss is doing an amazing job as Andrew Cunanan. I never watched Glee, although I bet I would have enjoyed it back in the day. I have nothing to base him on just as I never saw Adam Driver in anything before I saw him as Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens and really liked him while others just thought of him as "that hipster from Girls" and didn't appreciate his acting ability. I completely believe Criss' portrayal of a serial killer. Funny how close those two roles are when you think about it. 

Another Great Psychopath
Darren Criss has captured that smug, arrogant nature of a narcissist, a psychopath, a sociopath, a serial killer. His portrayal of Andrew Cunanan makes my skin crawl. I just want to smack him in the head, he’s such an asshole. 

I’ve met a few sociopaths in my time, (as we all have as they are everywhere), and Criss captures the essence perfectly. The charm, how he imitates or mirrors what his victims want and needs, how he lures them in with false promises, with amazing sex, with flattery, just to destroy them for no good reason but his own perverse self-pleasure at watching others suffer. He tortures poor David while they were on the run with word salad and gaslighting, typical tools of the narcissist. He spins David’s head until David doesn’t know what to do or if he has the strength to do it. 

Of course, David was damned no matter what choice he would make because Cunanan would have just blamed David for the crime and David would be the one in jail forever for something he had nothing to do with. You can feel the evil from Cuananan in this situation, how he cat and mouses David and loves it so much. It’s so sad and tragic. And it really happened in real life that someone is that evil, just like that asshole in Toronto. 

Darren Criss plays the part with chilling accuracy. I hope he wins some kind of award or recognition for his work.

So far, four episodes in, The Assassination of Gianni Versace is really worth watching. The cast is outstanding. No one has been a clunker yet! The sets are amazing as Murphy’s sets and costume designs always are.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.





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