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Villisca: Living with a Mystery
Villisca Living with a Mystery
Director: Kelly Rundle
Genres: Documentary, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2006     1hr 56min

When an entire family is wiped out by an axe-wielding killer on a June evening in 1912, a small Iowa town spirals into chaos and division. "Villisca: Living with a Mystery" tells the epic true story of the Villisca, Iow...  more »


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Movie Details

Director: Kelly Rundle
Genres: Documentary, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Biography, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Passion River
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 10/24/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 56min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
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Movie Reviews

What does an axe murder do to a small American town?
T. Bryson | Los Angeles, CA, USA | 12/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"What a wonderful piece of work! A documentary that is at once informative, intriguing and terrifying - a "horror flick" not due to gruesome special effects and jolting surprises, but rather to the grisly reality that demented acts do occur, and they shape us profoundly from our personal psychologies to our communal attitudes.

Having spent my life on the West Coast, I'd never heard of this town or the murder, so I came to the film knowing only that it was "about an axe murder." It is so much more. Yes, the historical mystery is presented, clearly and fascinatingly. But it goes on to build the psychology and personality of the town itself, as shaped by the murder and its aftermath.

This was a small town in the early 1900s - murder was personal and close and horrifying, there was no way for the townspeople to shrug it off as we might now that we've become more accustomed to, and desensitized to, violent crime. The town changed overnight, from welcoming and warm and trusting, to fearful, prejudiced and defensive. A community that had gone along in harmony became split, with half believing these had been murders for political/financial/community gain and the other half believing it was merely the work of a madman. One belief generated battles and hard feelings within the community, splitting families and friends to opposite sides and lifelong feuds. The other created a fearful, racist, closed society, completely distrustful and rejecting of any stranger or person of color. The town remains split even over the reality of this piece of its history - those who believe it to be historical fact which should be remembered are accused of celebrating it by those who consider it a shame that should be hidden and forgotten.

The documentary presents it all in a fair and non-partisan manner. No sides are taken, so we viewers get the full story and can develop our own conclusions - we are still, after seeing the film, in exactly the same position as the town and the authorities, "living with a mystery" - we have all the information at hand, but still no positive conclusions.

Artistically, this is a documentary with a twist...the narration is so calm and cool and presentational, that it eventually creates a chilling and horrific atmosphere. In our modern world we are so familiar with murder, and so surrounded by excitement and sensationalism, that this calm matter-of-fact voice talking of bashed heads and sundown laws becomes spine-shivering, and we are reminded of the true horror of some things we've begun to accept as common in our modern world.
Highly recommended
Mary Beth | Ohio | 11/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I've been following this film's progress since I first read about it in June of 2002. I got a chance to see it in October 2004 and I was not disappointed. It's really a wonderful film. From the first time I read about the tragedy until I saw the documentary, I was struck with the care that the filmmakers took to remain both faithful to the story and respectful of the people of Villisca, Iowa. Their aim was to try to understand, not exploit, the horrible atrocity that occurred in the once peaceful town nearly 100 years ago. There are many twists and turns and various characters involved and each is depicted in the film in such a way that makes it very easy to understand and follow the story. It's astounding that the deep wound that was inflicted upon Villisca in 1912 is still felt as sharply today. I was also very impressed with the historian, Dr. Epperly, who has diligently been researching this crime for 50 years now! Thank God he and the Rundles found each other and could work together to bring the story to light of what happened in Villisca so long ago.

After viewing the film again on DVD exactly one year after seeing it in the theatre, my opinion of it hasn't changed. If anything, I think it's better the second time around. Anyone who has the slightest interest in unresolved cases such as this should purchase the DVD. I promise you will not be disappointed.

A very well done documentary and I highly recommend it!

Keep the lights on while watching this one!
Stephen Cox | Los Angeles | 12/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I didn't know much about the mysterious, unsolved murders of Villisca before viewing this unique documentary. The producers have nearly unraveled the mystery decades later...or did they? It truly is a great mystery for the ages. What a great story! Told with just the right amount of Midwestern flavor of the era and with intriguing images and interviews, this will leave you on the edge of your seat. Bravo!"
Can a murder be solved after 90 years?
Beth H. Klingensmith | Colorado Springs, CO | 11/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This film is a documentary focusing on the June 1912 Villisca, Iowa axe murders that killed eight people. The movie tells the story of the crime itself, the suspects, the attempts at solving the crime and the lasting effects this heinous act had on the small town of Villisca. Townspeople, criminal experts and Villisca "buffs" are interviewed. Suspects are presented and theories given, but the mystery goes on....

An enjoyable movie for crime buffs and historians - very well presented. You don't have to know about the crime in advance to understand and enjoy the movie. Since it is a documentary, it is full of still photos, but nothing squeamish like the subject might suggest.

The DVD is chock full of goodies, including two sets of commentaries, one by Dr. Ed Epperly, Villisca crime expert, who has been researching the case for 50 years, and another by the filmmakers themselves. Great stuff"