With In Contention‘s Guy Lodge having posted a Venice Film Festival pan of Ami Canaan Mann ‘s Texas Killing Fields (Anchor Bay, 10.7), it seems fair to post my own reaction, which is a bit more favorable but only a bit.

Texas Killing Fields costars Sam Worthington, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chloe Moretz, Stephen Graham, Jessica Chastain and Annabeth Gish. I reported in mid-August that it’s about the Texas I-45 Murders, a series of unsolved killings of prostitutes and lonely girls in the ’80s, probably by more than one assailant, in a blighted area south of Houston near Interstate I-45, which runs from Dallas down to Galveston Bay.

Mann, director of an earlier feature called Morning, is the daughter of Michael Mann, who produced this faintly-Zodiac-resembling crime drama.

I think it’s basically a highly intriguing, at times genuinely creepy, misshapen mess. There’s not enough of a story, the coverage is odd and haphazard, and it’s not long or complex enough to be a Zodiac-styled cold case movie. The tone lacks a commanding vision, a consistent aesthetic. It feels spotty and raggedy, but not un-intriguing for that.

Texas Killing Fields was obviously made by talented people looking do something extra. All the performances have something or other. All the leads are watchable and interesting, no phone-in performances. It’s atmospheric and creepy but…hello? It doesn’t go anywhere. It just ends with someone who seemed to be dead turning up not dead. And there’s a blonde bad guy who seems to be a prime suspect but then just suddenly shoots a minor character and disappears. I still don’t know what that was about.