John Borowski’s H.H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer is alternately fascinating and dopey, an interesting journey into the mind of the country’s first sociopath that too often succumbs to severe over-dramatization. Holmes was clearly a sadistic maniac, his smooth appearance and demeanor belying an underlying hatred for the world—do we really need a dum-dee-dum score and theatrical voiceover to reinforce it? Every hokey moment is doubly frustrating, because Borowski shows a clear appreciation for the demonic workings of Holmes’ mind, as well as some genuine filmmaking talents. His decision to cast actors in the roles of Holmes and his victims, mixing reconstructed murder sequences with actual archival footage, was an excellent touch—since (obviously) no videos exist of Holmes unleashing his assortment of deathdreams on unsuspecting citizens, I found Borowski’s decision to be useful. Unfortunately, too many of these moments are more interesting from a historical perspective; very few—due mostly to the silly delivery—are really scary. It’s lucky that Holmes is such an intriguing character; otherwise, America’s First Serial Killer’s flaws would be much more difficult to forgive. Borowski paces the picture well—at 64 minutes, there’s no wasted time, and he does a good job of blending Holmes’ personal background with the overall significance and influence of his actions. Ultimately, there’s not a great deal more to say about it—it’s certainly worthwhile viewing, especially for fans of serial killers or American history, but it’s merely competent cinema. Never theatrically released, H. H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer can be purchased at www.hhholmesthefilm.com.