Last Call

Last Call
Last Call
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Say their names: Thomas Mulcahy. Peter Anderson. Anthony Marrero. Michael J. Sakara. Frederic Spencer. All of them were victims of a serial killer known as the “Last Call Killer,” who targeted specifically homosexual men in New York City during the 1990s.

The majority of Last Call is made up of interviews with families and acquaintances of these victims, a new HBO docuseries about the hunt for the murderer. This is different from your typical crime show.

Viewers do find out who-did-it by the end of Last Call’s four-episode run, but it does not follow standard mysteries where each episode contains clues that help the audience solve the case. Instead Caronna has approached it from another angle; a victim centric one and a deserted community.

In watching its pilot, at first glance, this appears to be another one of those recent docuseries that spend too long overstretching stories as thin as possible to meet episode quotas.It starts with a police officer reminiscing about finding a human head on rural Route 72 in New Jersey; it was that belonging to Thomas Mulchay—Massachusetts businessman, husband, and father.Not long after his remains are found elsewhere in Mulchay’s lifeless body which had been dismembered and packaged in plastic bags stretching several miles along this route.

Records indicate that he made a stop at The Townhouse bar before his death.As they do not see anything significant concerning this place initially; however, upon getting views from bar attendees—they discover something they would never have imagined: The Townhouse was an undercover gay bar aimed at rich closeted married men.

This is where Caronna takes a sharp turn away from his storyline.Had it been any other major true-crime show—20/20 or To Catch A Predator—the focus would have been on nothing else but investigation amid tears flowing from family members’ eyes towards the camera. Last Call veers into biopic territory immediately. Mulchay’s adult daughter, Tracey O’Shea, reminisces about what she can remember of her father from his parenting skills to his favourite activities and even weirdnesses in personality.The next part shows different queer community activists talking about their relationships with the police, how they tried to warn people that a killer was on the loose during a time of extreme public homophobia.It seems like it doesn’t contribute anything towards the main plot of finding the killer through this drama starring Steven Weber.

When Caronna adopts similar strategy in Episode 2,pertaining to Anthony Marrero’s murder which occurred after he worked as a male prostitute,this director has another tale. Last Call isn’t meant to be an edgy crime show that keeps fans guessing tillthe end complete with all graphic details. He wants people angry.

Last Call is a film that drips with anger—a seething hatred for the murderer as well as a homophobic police force incapable of helping its own people. In the 80s and 90s, even in liberal New York City, LGBTQ+ individuals lived life in constant fear of violence. Yes, Greenwich Village (where Stonewall Inn is located) was known as a place where queer people could live openly among others like themselves. This did not prevent outsiders or law enforcement from harassing residents regularly.

Somewhere in the midst of Last Call, we see a community activist displaying a map of The Village on which he has marked tiny purple dots indicating locations of attacks in the first months of 1992. It’s fitting that they look like blood stains because just during the first quarter alone there have been more than six hundred acts of aggression against LGBTQs. Almost none of those offenses were ever taken to court. Perhaps young people – especially young homo- and trans-sexuals – ought to take notice that older gays had it tough.

The reason why Caronna devoted so much space to this aspect about Last Call might be guessed at because according to him, the most terrible crimes committed by Last Call killer are different. In one interview, Caronna’s asked from two detectives why sexuality is important to such an extent regarding this case? There are instances when one brother who had made his living through prostitution denies that his departed sibling was gay at all cost. Tracey O’Shea does not cry over her father secretly living another life: she cries since she understands what led him into hiding.

Caronna avoids being too pedantic through this plot threads’ perfect harmony. Friends remember victims; community organizers express their frustration concerning law enforcement; police and other investigators tell us their experiences involving probing these killings among others. This kind of approach makes it seem as though everything keeps returning back in four episodes of “Last Call.” That’s also what gives the series an eerie feel. There is always one more murder around the corner.

The fourth episode of Last Call describes how police eventually caught up with him. Caronna avoids this kind of psychoanalysis, which would be far too heavy-handed. Instead, he talks to long-time friends of the killer. It will surprise viewers just how much their testimonies resemble those of the victims’ families in Last Call Killer: they had no idea that he was leading a double life; they thought that he was gay but he denied it; they never knew that he was marking out blood and scars on images of muscular men from his extensive video and photo collection.

According to Caronna, it can be surmised that the same homophobia which made investigation into Last Call Killer even more complicated played a role in his acts as well on some level. In this way, one could almost feel sorry for the director’s villain character—almost.

In Last Call, Caronna spends the last minutes talking about a hate crime wave that occurred against gay people in the 1990s and he compares it to what politicians say today about LGBTIQ. Hence, he argues that when politicians publicly vilify American homosexuals they fan the violence which did not only kill victims of The Last Call Killer but also slain – Marsha P. Johnson, Brandon Teena, Matt Shepherd and others who died at Pulse Massacre among many more. Unlike other crime books, Last Call does not serve as an entertainment signal for crimes.

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