Contact theSOPAbout theSOPSupport theSOPWritersEditorsManaging Editors
theSOP logo
Published:January 17th, 2014 15:14 EST
"Thrill Killer" Alyssa Bustamante Up Close and Personal

"Thrill Killer" Alyssa Bustamante Up Close and Personal

By SOP newswire2

15-year-old Alyssa Bustamante was accused of murdering her 9-year-old neighbor, Elizabeth Olten, shortly before Halloween of 2009. But sensationalized headlines didn`t sit well with independent filmmaker Shane Ryan. Bustamante was a cutter (she had many self-inflicted wounds on her upper arm) and her original confession was blocked by a judge because authorities "used deceptive tactics" to obtain it. Ryan, at the age of 16, was arrested for an unspeakable crime (in some eyes it`s worse than the one Bustamante committed) which he did not commit and claims the interrogation officers spent hours drilling him and his best friend (also 16) using "the most horrendous and vile words possible" to scare them into confessing. Ryan never changed his story but spent two years in court regardless, defending himself. Ryan also suffered from self abuse, and coincidentally has the exact same set of scars as Bustamante on the exact same part of his body. "When I saw her picture, I felt like I was looking into a mirror," says Ryan. "Even though I could never imagine hurting somebody else. But I needed to understand why things like this happen. So, I made a movie about it."

The film was shot in 2010, very shortly after the murder, and completed in early 2011. Immediately it was hit with criticism, and after Bustamante`s high school newspaper covered the story on their front page, Ryan even received death threats. But that`s nothing new for him. "I don`t make these kinds of films because I like making people angry. I`m angry at what I see in the world, and use film as a way of trying to help figure these things out. Maybe somehow make a difference. Make people think twice about things, to read between the lines." Others claim it`s for profit, but the film was made on a budget of just 300. "I make no money making these films. I`d be homeless if people didn`t help me get by. Of course, the dream, is to one day be paid to direct. But until then I`m doing it 100% for the art, the emotion, the feeling, the need to understand the world."

Despite the controversy over possibly exploiting Olten`s death or glamorizing Bustamante`s actions, critics have insisted that the picture is anything but. Film Monthly named it the Best Unseen Film of 2011 calling it "painfully honest." "Ryan looks at what happened in the way a skilled documentary maker might make a murderer human," says International Syndicate of Cult Film Critics, "[putting] Elizabeth`s death at the feet of a damaged and twisted society rather than the act of a single person, and does so in a way that is equal parts disturbing and heart wrenching," (Life After Undeath). The UK has nothing but praised the film, claiming it`s "a lost gem that needs to be discovered" (BloodGuts UK Horror), "an unflinching portrait...should probably be seen and discussed by as many people as possible" (The London Film Review), "Ryan has crafted a film that cuts deep...often disturbingly real...Katie Marsh portrays Alyssa with great rawness" (Flickering Myth), and it`s just a "gut-wrenching...intensely moving experience" (Nerdly UK). "Maybe it takes movies such as My Name is `A` by anonymous to remind you that you are not desensitized" (Yahoo). It`s been compared to the works of David Lynch (The Elephant Man), Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers), Larry Clark (Kids/Bully), Lars von Trier (Nymphomaniac) and John Cassavetes (A Woman Under the Influence). The picture was awarded Best Arthouse Film by the Pollygrind Film Festival in Las Vegas, where it premiered in late 2012, nearly two years after it was completed. No one dared showcase the film up until that point.

The film features Russian pop star Teona Dolnikova (formerly of the band Slot), Demi Baumann (younger sister of Ken Baumann from The Secret Life of the American Teenager), introduces Katie Marsh as Alyssa, and was co-produced by filmmaker Ryan Nicholson (Live Feed, Gutterballs, The Profane Exhibit) and actor Kevin Gage (Michael Mann`s HeatRidley Scott`s G.I. JaneCall of Duty: Ghosts, Banshee, Knockaround Guys, Con Air). Wild Eye Releasing picked up North American DVD rights and will release the film sometime soon this year.

For more information visit the official website of production company Mad Sin Cinema