For as long as I can remember I’ve always been intrigued by serial killers. Half of my high school papers were written on them, college sociology projects, and most of the short stories I’ve written have dabbled in that wheelhouse. I’m not the only writer inspired by the mystery or haunting dis-attachment that these killers bring, as has been reflected in cinema for years. I wrote a list similar to this many years ago, but I altered added and cut several things, making it a fresh new perspective. Please share your favorite serial killers as well. These guys are some of the best characters to grace the silver screen. Also, WARNING, some of the summaries I’ve written may be spoilerific.
10. GHOSTFACE (SCREAM)
“Do you LIKE scary movies?”
Yes – in the end he ends up being played by multiple actors, but the character exists as a single entity for so much of the film that I count him as being singular. What can you do when an entire genre of movies has so pumped the well dry that sand is all that remains. Do you abandon it, and try for a new well? You could – or you do what Ghostface does and show people that the sand has value it’s self. It’s the fact that the well has been drained, that we all have taken in the mythology of the slasher film that Ghostface exploits. We are familiar with the dangers and risks slashers pose, so he plays on that knowledge, and twists new dangers and deaths. Yes, sequilitits causes him diminishing returns, but the original stands the test of time.
“I’m Sam. Dave Berkowitz.”
The Summer Of Sam is Spike Lee’s take on the “Son of Sam” murders in New York City during the summer of 1977. Centering on the residents of an Italian-American South Bronx neighborhood who live in fear and distrust of one another. The compelling aspect of the movie is the curiosity of who the murderous killer actually is. While his face and identity isn’t revealed until deep into the movie, the elusiveness of his crimes, the fear built on the unknowing, and the tension the movie builds makes David Berkowitz the most compelling and scary serial killer who doesn’t visually appear on screen. His crimes are as heinous as they come, but the mystery is what makes this “character” so provocative.
8. EARLY GRACE (KALIFORNIA)
“No. Tell me something, big time. How are you going to write a book about something you know nothing about? “
The film focuses on a psychology student and his girlfriend who are traveling cross-country to research serial killers, when ironically the couple that they is sharing the ride on the trip is exactly what they are searching for. Pitt plays Early Grayce, the serial killer on the trip. Just losing his job at the mirror factory he is planning on leaving the state. His parole officer tells him if he doesn’t find a new job he’ll be arrested, so Early plans an escape after picking up an ad. In route he has a confrontation with his landlord that ends in the landlord being killed and disposed of by Early, and thus a trip that involves carnage and destruction, not to mention an ending that you won’t forget. Brad Pitt is anything but the playboy heartthrob he’s considered as. In one of his best roles ever, he is diabolical and terrifying as Early.
“If you shoot someone in the head with a .45 every time you kill somebody, it becomes like your fingerprint, see? But if you strangle one, stab another, and one you cut up, and one you don’t, then the police don’t know what to do. They think you’re four different people. What they really want, what makes their job so much easier, is pattern. What they call a modus operandi. That’s Latin. Bet you didn’t know any Latin, did you kid?”
“fals-fals-fals-falsity. Because birds really eat a tremendous lot. But -I-I don’t really know anything about birds. My hobby is stuffing things. You know – taxidermy.”
Each time I watch Psycho, I look for subtle signs, moments where Norman shows he is a little crazy, but it never happens. The situations with “mother” make sense, but Norman was just as polite and insecure in ever scene, until the monster is revealed. The story of Norman Bates is horrific, but also tragic. His sweetness and eagerness to please is evident, but when the truth of who and what he is becomes revealed the character becomes more than a savage killer. It becomes completely melancholy, for all those that suffered because of Norman’s illness. Anthony Perkins was riveting in the role, and unfortunately for him never really got the opportunity to be another character outside Norman. Maybe his fate was somehow linked with Normans. Norman Bates is a character that will live on forever.
“OK, I see Helen. Nice try. You wanna know a little secret? Huh? I’m on to your trick. I won’t kill you fast no matter how much you’re gonna want me to.”
Mickey: I love you, Mal.Mallory: I know you do baby, and I’ve loved you since the day we met.
3. HANNIBAL LECTOR (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS)
“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”
“There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman; some kind of abstraction. But there is no real me: only an entity, something illusory. And though I can hide my cold gaze, and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable… I simply am not there.”
Talk about delusions of evil and ideas of grandeur. Patrick Bateman is the ultimate sociopath. His ability to blend so efficiently in society yet be so detached is the most compelling aspect of Patrick Bateman to endure. His fixation with Huey Lewis and Phil Collins showed an obsession with details and things, but an indifference to people and life. Obsessing over his business card and the best restaurant in town becomes an anxiety driven focus. His apathy towards the people that he was supposedly engaged with in friendships, relationships, or sexual partners with has moments of pure and utter amusement, but only because we are perceiving the situations from Bateman’s perspective. The impassive perspective of his vision of the world is strange and darkly enchanting. Even in his most grave moments of violence and reality being distorted, there is something gruesomely delightful about it all, but I guess that’s the point.
“Innocent? Is that supposed to be funny? An obese man… a disgusting man who could barely stand up; a man who if you saw him on the street, you’d point him out to your friends so that they could join you in mocking him; a man, who if you saw him while you were eating, you wouldn’t be able to finish your meal. After him, I picked the lawyer and I know you both must have been secretly thanking me for that one. This is a man who dedicated his life to making money by lying with every breath that he could muster to keeping murderers and rapists on the streets!”