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:: Wonderland

The Wonderland murders of 1981 were a horrific event in Hollywood in which four people were brutally murdered. What caused the tragedy to become a high-profile case was the involvement of the notoriously well-endowed porn star John Holmes (Val Kilmer). According to what you want to believe, Holmes was either not present, an observer, or a participant in the murders. One thing is for certain. Holmes was a pathetic, self-serving junkie. By this time, he was no longer doing X-rated movies as his drug habit forced him out of the industry. As a consequence to this, the media had become obsessed with the consumption of speculation concerning the events.

Director and co-writer James Cox has distanced Wonderland from a straight depiction of events. The jerky camera work and muted palette add a stylish edge that shows the barrier between fact and fiction. Cox is left to tell Holmes’ version and that of the only uninjured survivor pf the massacre, David Lind (Dylan McDermott).

The film focuses on Holmes’ story: his long-time relationship with teenage junkie Dawn Schiller (Kate Bosworth), his dependence on his estranged wife Sharon (Lisa Kudrow), his insatiable drug habit, and his fateful link with ruthless club owner Eddie Nash (Eric Bogosian) and a group of small-time drug dealers. The title comes from Wonderland Avenue, where this group lived. The maniacal Ron Launius (Josh Lucas) led them, and the house became the centre of Hollywood’s flourishing drug scene.

Wonderland offers a basic insight into the case elements and Cox’s grittier and colourful efforts work quite well at times. The self-interest by Holmes and Lind head Cox to provide the “objective truth”. Cox delivers a bleak, hard-hitting story that examines the desperate life of a man (Holmes) who knew fame before falling for a life of alcohol and cocaine. All things considered, there isn’t a likeable character in the film.

Val Kilmer gives John Holmes the right amount of sleaze that the real person probably possessed. Lisa Kudrow and Kate Bosworth also give fine performances. Josh Lucas and Eric Bogosian portray ferocious, hard men. Ironically, there isn’t any nudity in the film. Generally, it’s a compelling journey into the depths of hell and despair.

A couple of interesting notes:
John Holmes died of AIDS in 1988. Dawn Schiller-Bristol (who met John and Sharon Holmes and then became John’s lover) is Associate Producer of this film. She married, returned to California after several years, and remains close friends with Sharon. Sharon is an adviser to this film. She was left disabled after an accident in 1995 and always considered Dawn as a daughter.