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The scariest serial killers on film?

Manhunter.jpgWith Zodiac on general release I was thinking about what scares me so much about serial killers. Is it the fact that they repeat the crimes, is it that they can sometimes go undetected for so long, or is there something else?

There's then the question of just who is the scariest serial killer on film, is it a character from real life? So this feature goes out to serial killers on celluloid, killa's, this one's for you.

What do you find the scariest thing about the serial killer character? Is it scarier to have a character like Norman Bates? Someone who is a fictional character, fully opened to the audience so that they can see the extent of who and what they are? Someone that has some basis in a life like ours but is still very much removed?

Or is it scarier to see a character who is just like you and I, living a normal life and is firmly rooted in our reality. Someone who isn't portrayed as overly psychotic and crazy and is more a part of everyday lives. Someone who could be standing next to you in the queue at the checkouts or even next to you at the cinema? Someone like Sy Parrish from One Hour Photo, or Francis Dollarhyde from Manhunter.

Maybe you find it far scarier to have someone who is totally out of this world. A character like the clown creature from Stephen King's It perhaps? A creature that has no real association with your normal life but could just be out there.

For me the most terrifying serial killer is the one that comes from a true story. Ed Gein, Ted Bundy, Myra Hindley and Ian Hindley or the Zodiac killer. These characters are the most chilling for me.

There are two reasons why I find these characters particularly chilling. They are real, live a life like you and I, for the most part are normal and can even have friendships and relationships, and yet on the flipside they can completely dehumanise themselves, commit some horrendous acts and be totally detached from any emotional connection with the victims.

These are the scariest characters for me. Someone who could pick you up and treat you as dispassionately as a slab of steak. Yet someone who can be as normal as your next door neighbour.

So who is the scariest onscreen serial killer for you, and what makes them so scary?



Don't know if this qualifies, but the girl from Takashi Miike's Audition is creepy in all the right ways...the joy on her face is terrifying...

The Lecter/Dollarhyde style killers (or the 80's slasher icons for that matter) don't do much to scare me though. It's the regular looking folks that do it for me (One Hour Photo was an interesting example).

All that being said, the family in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre were strangely terrifying though...

John Wayne Gacy. He was real, he killed kids, he disguised himself as a clown.

I can find no one scarier than that.

Oh Triflic, I think she does qualify. She's creepy as anything and moreso because she's just a normal girl...for the most part.

Peter did Gacy have a film? I seem to remember Brian Dennehy playing a serial killer dressed as a clown.

Malcolm Rivers from Identity.

Folks might want to go see Mr. Brooks before they answer this one. He might earn a spot in the list.

Yes, Rich, Gacy had a film, that made a trilogy with those about Ed Gein and Ted Bundy. I haven´t seen it, unfortunately.

Might I add Jack Torrance from The Shining? A normal man becoming slowly a killer can also be frightening!

The killings shown in Zodiac still haunt me, anybody else seen the film?

I've seen Zodiac, but I think the impact was ruined a bit by the circumstances. I saw it right after coming out of 300...

brian dennehy did play john wayne gacey, it's one of my favourite films with a serial killer in too, its called 'to catch a killer' (1992).

my personal favourite outside this one i mention above, is called 'citizen x' (1995, also a tv movie) which isn't directly about the killer as much as it's about the hunt for the killer. stephen rea plays a man placed in charge of the investigation, and shows the classic alternative tactic of doing something well - that he has no preconceptions, so reinvents or creates new techniques to maximise his opportunities to find russian child serial killer, chikatilo.

the progression of burakov (rea's) ideas, and the wranglings he undergoes during what seems to be a transitional period between hypocritical old guard russia and inventive new guard russia, shows a fantastic progression throughout the film. donald sutherland gives a great performance as an old-guard russian who understands the old ways are no longer appropriate or desirable, and it's perhaps the most recent thing i've seen from him before what i describe as his journey to the centre of his own anus. max von sydow also has a small role, and he's superb too in this.

oh, and 'ten rillington place' is a stunner too.

Thanks for that logboy, I'm going to look out those two titles. I do remember something about Citizen X and I seem to remember something about Stephen Rea being in it.

Jack Torrance is a superb choice Peter. He's just a normal bloke but when he's taken over by the power in the hotel...oh boy, he's damn scary.

You know I would consider adding Mr Brooks on the strength of that trailer alone!

Zodiac is on the next to see list though...I do believe we don't see that much of the killer though.

zodiac? i've seen it. quite liked it. didn't agree with the use of music, the puzzle solving angle is a bit obvious but true to the story, downey junior is an ass - but well cast considering his character.

citizen x? that appears on TV every few years. theres also an R1 i know of. i would like to see the JWG mini series again, that too was on TV here, and there should be a DVD of it. 'ten rillington place' is a out here, cheap too by now.

also worth seeing is imamura's 'vengeance is mine' as released by criterion recently.

James Bond, because he can kill people without repercussions!

I don't remember if it was really a serial killer, but the killing at the center of Strange Days was pretty messed up.

Oh Hap, (line from Always) I read that first line as...

"I don't remember if I was really a serial killer"

There's your opening film line. I should get that into plotbot and the Stalkers could start an interactive script writing session!

Kenada - interesting choice, in a way he is a serial killer, although his motives are much more on the side of morally right.

So Richard, did you get to see Zodiac?

Not yet, over the weekend though...yesterday was Vacancy.


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