Despite a few cribs from SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and SEVEN, the patron saints of serial-killer movies, 2000'S BLOWBACK is a direct-to-video thriller lensed in San Diego that stands on its own as an effective movie. The writing isn't good, but the main performances and the action sequences are. BLOWBACK was directed by Mark L. Lester, who graduated from well-remembered drive-in flicks like TRUCK STOP WOMEN and ROLLER BOOGIE to major studio actioners like FIRESTARTER and COMMANDO before falling back into low-budget exploitation movies.
The great character actor James Remar, memorable as the psycho killer Ganz in 48 HRS. and now a regular on Showtime's DEXTER, is John Whitman, a vicious serial killer who kidnaps women, strips them, tortures them, kills them and then arranges their bodies to replicate those of obscure saints. He's finally captured by San Diego detective Don Morrell (Mario Van Peebles) in a bloody struggle that includes Morrell biting Whitman's nose off. A year after Whitman's execution in the gas chamber, the city is plagued by a new series of copycat killings. The victims are no longer exclusively women, but the jurors in the Whitman trial. Morrell, a theological expert who considered the priesthood before becoming a cop, recognizes the killer's M.O., right down to the Bible verses left at the scene of each murder, and deduces that the perpetrator is no copycat, but Whitman himself.
While the manner of Whitman's resurrection involves an element of science fiction, it's safe to put BLOWBACK firmly in the police procedural category, as Morrell doggedly investigates the clues left by the killer, who continues his habit of mutilating his victims post-mortem. The product of three screenwriters, BLOWBACK manages to hit most of the cop-chases-killer clichés, including Morrell being placed on suspension by his stern captain (the recently deceased David Groh) and his being assigned a vivacious rookie partner (blond Sharisse Baker, now married to Carlos Bernard, 24's Tony Almeida). However, veteran director Lester delivers a competent level of sheen and interjects energetic chases and shootouts at regular intervals. Both Van Peebles and Remar do good work, and the San Diego locations are a nice change from the usual L.A. and Vancouver haunts. Really, the two stars do a lot to make the procedural mumbo-jumbo feel real, and their experience and charisma really carry the story between chases.
Also helping BLOWBACK stand out is the high level of gore and Whitman's habit of nailing topless women to a cross--you don't see that every day. The ending is a particularly audacious one that arguably splashes too far over the top, but you can't say it isn't memorable.