Director: John R. Hand
Cast: Arnold Odo, Fernando Cano, Bri Bynon McGregor
Production Company: JRH Films
Runtime: 85 minutes

There are a lot of movies about serial killers out there. These films are often dramatic, and sometimes even go so far as to romanticize the subject matter. This is not the case in John R. Hand’s Joel (2018). The story is based on actual events, and the horrific murders feel real.

The movie tells the true story of serial killer Joel Rifkin (Arnold Odo), who was responsible for the murder of seventeen prostitutes in the late eighties and early nineties. Rifkin strangled all of his victims to death, and used various methods to dispose of their bodies.

The movie was produced by John R. Hand, who also directed Frankenstein’s Bloody Nightmare (2006), The Synthetic Man (2013), and Forest of the Vampire (2016). Hand uses his extensive knowledge of horror films to tell this nightmarish story based on facts.


This is Arnold Odo’s first film, and he is completely terrifying in the role of Joel Rifkin. His ability to remain nearly emotionless during the murder scenes sent chills up my spine. Odo also manages to make you feel some sympathy toward his character too.

Joel is a disturbing, graphic, and realistic film, remarkably made on a miniscule budget. This film should be required viewing for anyone setting out to make a micro-budget production. Writer Adam Drake deserves a lot of the credit. Good stories transcend the need for money…

Odo’s character speaks of his fixation with strangulation, admitting that he first started thinking about it after seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972). The film also uses clips from Carnival of Souls (1962), which simply adds more nightmare fuel to this cinematic work.


The story is told in a narrative style, with icy voice-overs accompanying most of the tragic action. Despite this approach (or maybe because of it) the movie has the aura of a crime documentary. The original music by The Grey creates a foreboding atmosphere that will leave you feeling on edge.

A stylized opening scene, period footage, and great POV shots, all help to make events seem more real. The use of vintage erotica was also an unsettling choice. Joel is a shocking piece of work that will grab you by the throat. Try not to struggle too hard…

– John Migliore

For more information on the film, check out the links below…

Official Trailer 

IMDb Page 

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Official Site