Real Horror: Local Filmmaker Brings the Horrific Crimes of Dean Corll to the Silver Screen

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Which is exactly what made him perfect, of course.

Dean Corll was well-liked and well-regarded in the community. No one ever suspected the other side of him. Because of the yearlong nature of the shoot, Grisaffi found himself having to spend extensive stretches of time not being Dean Corll and then donning a killer's persona. In the interim, he practiced normalcy, as did his subject. Never arouse suspicion, never look anything but genial and never show that at some point in the near future, he would be standing over the body of someone he was thankfully just pretending to do unspeakable things to.

"He was a closeted homosexual in the '70s," said Vargas. "His mother was very homophobic and always talked about how disgusting gay people were. At that time it took a lot of balls to come out, and he didn't have those balls. I don't know why Dean went the way he did, but that had something to do with it."

When Corll meets Henley and Brooks in an empty apartment, the scene starts with a joke that we'll not repeat but that involves various sauces you should apply to your finger before engaging in digital sex with a woman. Even if you had absolutely no knowledge of Corll's activities, this scene would be painful to watch since he is so desperately trying to be perceived as a charming man of the world, and all that's coming out is the utterly empty boasting of someone who's very weak.

The depths of that weakness were the counterweight to the heights of Corll's cruelty. It was the engine that powered him when he wanted to do "his thing."

Grisaffi as Corll spins Wayne a tale about how he is secretly a master burglar who's part of a vast, efficient conspiracy to rob people with as little fuss as possible. Wayne clearly has trouble believing this obvious lie but knows that Corll is the source of Brooks's money flow and agrees to go along on a "job" that turns out to be little more than a stakeout of an empty house.

It's not just an empty ruse, though. Step by step, Corll gets Henley to agree hypothetically to more and more illegal activities in the name of scoring cash. Eventually, Corll tells Henley that he works for a ring of kidnappers that rounds up teenage boys for rich folks out in California to use as sex slaves. It's okay, though, he tells Henley. All that happens is that these kids get to go live in a mansion for a few years, have a bunch of sex and then when they turn 18, the client cuts them a check and sends them home again.

To Henley, this sounds like a tale about the farm old dogs go to, but finding his family in a bad way financially a couple of months later, he persuades a street kid to come with him to Corll's house to smoke pot. Corll tricks the boy into putting on handcuffs and then jumps him. Henley leaves, and the next day collects the $200 he was promised.

At the time, he didn't connect what he had just done with the recent disappearances in the neighborhood, including two of his friends from school.

"It was a perfect storm of little things that added up to something horrible," Vargas said of the path that he was chronicling.

"You know when you're young you've got that friend," said Grisaffi. "You like that guy, and maybe he's charismatic...but he's also dangerous. You can find yourself agreeing to go along with him on things that you would never do otherwise. You're kind of afraid of him. That's who I was thinking of when I was playing Corll. I was doing to Chris some of what some folks had done to me way back when."

Elmer Wayne Henley was just 15 years old when he had to make the most important decision of his life. That was when he persuaded his and Brooks's friend Frank Aguirre to come to Corll's house. By this time there was no longer any fairy tale about rich folks in California buying house boys off the Houston streets. Corll made it very clear that Aguirre was about to be raped, tortured and strangled to death — just as the boy Henley brought him before had been.

Now Henley had a choice...he could help Corll, or Corll would kill Henley's family and blame all the murders on him. He became a monster's assistant.

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Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner