22 Facts About Movies About Serial Killers
Films about serial killers are always fun. They’re the Leeroy Jenkins of real-life (and often, just as racist), and while they’re all very awful, telling tales about real-life boogeymen is always a good way to make a marginally profitable film. So it’s no surprise the serial killer slasher genre is one of the most prolific – and one of the weirdest. We’re talking about stuff like …
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
You might think you know what this film is about, but unless you said vegetarianism you’d be wrong — at least according to the director, Tobe Hooper, who became a vegetarian during the making of the film. Another victim of the film’s pro-PETA sway? Guillermo del Toro. The film has done more for the anti-meat industry than blood thrown on fur coats. Not bad for a film pulled out of theaters by police for lacking “morals.”
Friday the 13th
This film only exists because of porn. The producer used to make soft-core porn and decided to try and break out of it in the simplest way possible — ripping off Halloween.
The Cell, about Jennifer Lopez entering the mind of a serial killer, is a dark and twisted film… and was behind the scenes too. Award-winning costumer Eiko Ishioka designed costumes for Jennifer Lopez that were physically uncomfortable because her character was being tortured, so she wanted her to be able to feel that.
The Dead Zone
This is technically a prequel to Cujo. Yeah, turns out that the serial killer investigated in this film … possesses the dog from Cujo in the book? Stephen King was on a lot of cocaine at the time, to the point he does not even remember writing Cujo.
You probably know how Psycho was inspired by Ed Gein, or even how it was produced for next to nothing but did you know it was a theme park attraction? Back in the ‘90s, you could walk through the Bates motel and even watch a Hitchcock stand-in berate a woman as they filmed the shower scene before volunteering to play “Mrs. Bates.” This was like a short walk away from ET and Barney rides.
Both Iron Man and Mysterio despised working on this film. David Fincher, the director/perfectionist, would insist on takes upon takes, redoing the same scene up to seventy times. Gyllenhal described it as a Fincher painting and the actors being colors. RDJ had a more colorful remark which was peeing in jars and bringing them back to Fincher as a sign of protest for the long days.
Speaking of the Zodiac, did you know this film was based on the original Zodiac case and that Dirty Harry is a real person based on one of the detectives? You did? Okay, smartypants, but we bet you didn’t know that one of the victims in The Dead Pool was named after and partially inspired by real-life film critic Pauline Kael who despised the film.
The original script for this film, which was *not* about a serial killer, was utter bonkers. Called Blood Buddies — as the doll was modeled after My Buddy dolls — the film had bleeding dolls that, after getting blood from Andy – the main kid – mixed in with its own blood becomes an embodiment of Andy's rage. The blood bit was a sticking point though so they changed it to possession which is … better??
Duel, a film about a truck driver serial killer running people off the road like a car version of Jaws and actually made by future Jaws director Steven Spielberg, this film was originally promoted with a board game. Unfortunately, almost no one bought it, and copies are incredibly difficult to find now.
Scream was written in three days to pay the creator’s bills. He had a script called Teaching Mrs. Tingle that he had been unsuccessfully trying to sell, so he pumped out this script to make ends meet. Hey, it worked! Well enough that there’s now a television series and five sequels.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
This bleak Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara film has an incredibly brutal sexual assault scene that apparently wasn’t much fun for the cast either. The scene was filmed over the course of 16 days, on the week of Valentine’s Day. Given the film came out on Christmas, were there any holidays this film didn’t screw up?
The entire idea of the film started as a sequel to Black Christmas but the director didn’t want to make horror anymore and after telling John Carpenter his idea, fate aligned and Carpenter ended up making a film that was almost exactly the Black Christmas sequel idea … but definitely not stolen.
Of course, the original director of Black Christmas was one Mr. Bob Clark. If you recognize that name, it might be from Black Christmas – if you’re cool – but it might just be from A Christmas Story, you know, the tale of a kid and his red rocket, and getting your tongue stuck to poles. Or maybe it’s from Porky, the story of… well, peeping on women and being general creeps. Clark has had the wildest directing career.
The sequel, directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, started out as its own script, The Desperate, before being retooled into a sequel to the original Saw. Which also apparently wasn't as original as it seems. Saw was a breath of fresh, gorey air in the horror movie scene when it came out for its inventive main villain, but believe it or not, there was a real serial killer who had the conceit of trapping people, playing audiotapes, and making them play sadistic games. This fact is less fun than horrifying, just like the Saw series:
The husband and wife creative team of Mike Flanagan (who also directed this, and made Midnight Mass, and The Haunting of Hill House) and Kate Siegel (who starred in this, as well as Haunting of Hill House) wrote the entire film to be set inside their own home. But, when going to film it, they realized that they needed to rewrite it entirely because, hey, this new house wasn’t the house they lived in, not even close. Does raise two questions – one, why not film it in their house; and two, did they just role-play the whole script?
Despite being most famous for the ghosts, this film is —spoilers— a Bluebeard story. Set in a beautiful Gothic castle with haunting and eldritch rooms, the enthuse mansion was built from scratch for the film—although some of the artwork featured in the film is del Toro’s own.
Man Bites Dog
This black and white stark comedy is perhaps best known for inspiring one of the weirder fan films in recent history — Truth in Journalism, a black and white film about a crew following Eddie “Venom” Brock, portrayed by Ryan Kwanten (perhaps best known as Sookie’s brother from True Blood), as he goes around massacring the guilty. Not quite as dark as the original film, which hews closer to Clockwork Orange than No Way Home but still considered one of the better comic book adaptations.
The Silence of the Lambs
“It rubs the lotion on its skin,” is what you want to be thinking of while heading to bed on a nice vacation right? If so, seek help, but also, you’re in luck! The Buffalo Bill house is being turned into a BnB – a Buffalo n Bill. If you want to stay there, God help you, but check out this fun video!
Despite being one of the more famous and beloved (and memed) movies about serial killers out there, the film is despised by the writer of the book on which it’s based — Bret Easton Ellis. Why? It’s not ambiguous enough … and the director is a woman. "I think it's a medium that really is built for the male gaze and for a male sensibility. I mean, the best art is made under not an indifference to, but a neutrality the kind of emotionalism that I think can be a trap for women directors." Yeah, sure, buddy.
Nightmare on Elm Street
The Nightmare on Elm Street series has always been strange, and it’s basically one man’s fault, producer — Bob Shaye. He was the one who insisted the first film end with a sequel hook, which is why it looks so crappy – director Wes Craven was trying to mess with him.
This horrible film, about the world’s worst poster, originally wasn’t going to be so horrible – Martin Scorcese was its original director. But it probably still could’ve managed being a bit okay, if they ever finished it; after Scorcese dropped out, the next director wasn’t given enough time to finish filming, ending up with the film having about 15% fewer scenes than it should.
Se7en is the mournful tale of how Brad Pitt is actually a pretty good actor when given the right material. The film follows the Seven Sins Serial Killer as he, uh, does that. At one point, the detectives break into his house and find mounds of journals, all hand-written by the killer… but actually all hand-written by John Sable.
The designer spent 15k on journals, ripped them up, sewed them back together, baked them, and then started finding as many pictures of "mutilated limbs, decapitated people, people whose fingers had been sawn off" as he could -- and then the fun began. He covered the books in his manic insane writing, the writing of a killer -- thousands of pages, most of which are either visible briefly in the background, or not at all.
Tara Marie writes words at places like here, Panel X Panel, and the Hard Times. She's also done words at a comic in Trailer Park Boys: Bagged and Boarded. She’s probably not a serial killer but she did once go to the Jury Room so who knows! She's reachable @TaraMarieWords or by screaming into a cove at the bottom of a lake in the dead of night.
Thumbnail: Lionsgate Films, Orion Pictures