Rough Draft (1998) / aka Diary Of A Serial Killer Review

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We need a RiffTrax Signal like the Bat signal.

Rough Draft (1998) / aka Diary of a Serial Killer: 3 out of 10: “Rough Draft,” also known as “Diary of a Serial Killer,” is a psychological thriller film released in 1998. Directed by Alex Wright and starring Gary Busey, it delves into the mind of a serial killer through the lens of his journal entries. Rough Draft explores themes of obsession, isolation, and the descent into madness. Most of the descent into madness will be experienced by the viewer, mind you.

Rough Draft follows the story of both Stefan (Arnold Vosloo), a troubled man who becomes increasingly obsessed with documenting his crimes through a series of journal entries. And Nelson (Gary Busey) as a failed writer looking for a story.

As the narrative unfolds, the audience is taken on a disturbing journey into Stefan’s psyche as he meticulously plans and executes his murders. Along the way, he forms a twisted bond with a young woman, who becomes both his confidante and his next potential victim. As Stefan’s grip on reality slips, the film builds towards a chilling climax that forces viewers to confront the darkest corners of human nature.

The Good

The Good: Gary Busey is a struggling freelance writer who takes up cross-dressing to get a hook for a story and ends up writing about an active serial killer instead. Hold on, let me check the calender, is it Christmas? Cause this feels like a Christmas gift to me.

Gather your friends and some adult beverages (or even better adult herb) of your choice because this is a pain best enjoyed with a crowd. Make no mistake, Diary of a Serial Killer is a terrible movie. But it is a gloriously terrible movie. From the first shots of Gary Busey in a dress, you will wonder how the hell have I not heard of this before.

I want to note in all fairness that Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy) is excellent as the titular serial killer. As a result, he is terribly out of place in this cast. Also, while not as accomplished in her role, Julia Campbell (Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion) as Gary Busey’s… I am going to go with imaginary… girlfriend is at least cute.

The Bad

The Bad: I have a sneaking suspicion writer Jennifer Badham accidentally sent an unfinished script marked Rough Draft to her agent, and the studio bought it. Since it was her first (and to this date only) screenplay sale, she was too embarrassed to fess up.

It would explain an awful lot. Horribly underwritten characters, a serial killer with no motive outside of liking brunettes, and an unemployed Gary Busey living with a hot girlfriend half his age who pays all thier bills.

In terms of the worst performance I am going to have to go with Michael Madsen as our I don’t want to be here character. It is a true “can I take a plate home from the craft table, it’s um for the dog” performance. So yes, your standard Michael Madsen appearance.

While Michael is phoning it in, Gary Busey is well Gary Busey. I think someone offered him some money to wear woman’s clothing and only later he found out they were filming a movie.

There is little action or suspense. The only sex scene has Gary Busey in pantyhose. The gore is PG. The transvestite bar is a little too realistic. (Back in the day where we didn’t have to pretend that men in drag looked exactly like men in drag. See also Raw Deal.)

At no point does anything in the film seem real. The serial killer literally walks and talks with one victim for six hours. Goes in for the kiss and she states, “we need to know each other better.” The cops don’t seem to be real cops. The bookstore looks like a library, and Gary Busey’s last paying job was to pretend to be an alcoholic by drinking a lot and getting arrested for public intoxication. (But it is for a story… hic).

I am even at a loss where this is supposed to take place? Southern California? New Orleans? There is a lot of basic filmmaking and script groundwork that is simply not done here.

The Ugly

The Ugly: Gary Busey in a dress is the only acceptable answer here.

In Conclusion

In Conclusion: Not since Willem Dafoe was Madonna’s love interest in the erotic thriller Body of Evidence has a male lead been so amazingly miscast. Or maybe I am being harsh. If they had a more palatable male actor cross-dressing (Freddie Prinze Jr.?) I would not be rubbing my hands in glee waiting to ambush friends with this cinematic treasure.

Rough Draft is not a film you watch alone. It is a film you inflict on others. Enjoy.

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