Genre: Documentary / True Crime
Synopsis: Vivid interview with and chronicle of Saeed Hanae, a self-appointed vigilante / serial killer convicted of murdering 16 prostitutes in Iran.
Special Features: n/a
When Iranian Saeed Hanaei killed the first of 16 prostitutes, it was the inevitable extension of an egocentric, narcissistic sociopath who needed to regain a sense of power after his efforts to convinced Johns to stay away from street walkers and remain godly resulted in Hanaei getting smacked around. Angered and belittled, the religious zealot took on the role of a vigilante, waiting for his wife and kids to depart for evening prayers before trolling the streets for hookers, bargaining and conversing before taking victims home where he grabbed them by the necks, knocked them onto the family’s living room rug, and stood on their necks until breathing had ceased. The half-hour procedure was followed by a two hour body disposal, after which his family returned home, unaware of what had transpired.
As Hanaei progressed towards double-digit victims, he’d occasionally ride around the exterior of the city prison where other murderers were incarcerated, wondering if he’d soon join them, assuming the police would eventually catch the city’s ‘spider killer.’ He would also revisit the locations of the dumped bodies, excited by the shock that would ripple throughout the city, and on one occasion, he boldly stood among observers, including the judge who would ultimately preside over his case and issue a death sentence. Even more grotesque was the weird support that was building among zealots who believed Hanaei was doing God’s work in ridding the world of ‘waste of blood.’
Hanaei knew prostitution was illegal, making it tough for women to find any support from police, but the real kicker in Maziar Bahari’s chilling portrait of a classic serial killer is the ongoing support he enjoyed from his brothers, mother, wife, and most appallingly, the teenage son who thinks it’s noble to carry on his father’s quest and rid the world of worthless sub-humans (“Either these women have to go, or men have to swallow their honour.”)
The level of hatred towards women that lay within Hanaei is extraordinary, but it’s housed within the charming shell of a calm, almost down-to-earth figure who felt his actions were proper. He’s perhaps not as articulate and manipulative as Ted Bundy, but Hanaei organized his time to troll, select, murder, and foster the image of a pious folk hero.
Bahari contrasts extracts from a lengthy prison interview with Hanaei and members of his family with the parents and children of the murdered women. Many of the victims had fallen on hard times after their arranged marriages imploded, or had become addicted to hard drugs. Interpolated with Hanaei’s prideful recollections are crime scene shots of the dead women, and interviews with the daughters of one woman, both of whom describe the day they lost their mother, and the first time they saw the killer in a courtroom.
There’s also a young woman, seen only in silhouette, who recounts her slide into prostitution; recurring recollections from case journalist Roya Karimiand; and fascinating comments from the presiding judge who articulates the use of the term ‘waste of blood’ – a controversial concept that holds legal weight only when it’s interpreted with ‘credible’ arguments.
The lack of humanity among Hanaei’s entourage and strangers is appalling, and Bahari’s film is an unnerving portrait of a absolute monster. Being a fairly graphic film in words and images, viewers should also be aware the doc concludes with Hanaei dangling lifelessly from the hangman’s noose.
Maziar Bahari’s recent directorial work is the documentary To Light a Candle (2014), and some of his prior work is available online, including Mohammad and the Matchmaker (2004) and And Along Came a Spider (2003) on YouTube; and Reporters in Iraq (2005), An Iranian Odyssey: Mossadegh, Oil and the 1953 Coup (2010), and From Cyrus to Ahmadinejad: The Not So Secret Iran-Israel War (2012) on Vimeo.
His 2009 incarceration in an Iranian jail was recently dramatized by Jon Stewart in the film Rosewater (2014
© 2015 Mark R. Hasan
Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review