Top 10… Serial Killer Movies

Next up on my celebration of horror movies via top 10 lists is another real-life threat, but one more sinister than snakes or spiders – serial killers. It’s not the happiest of subject matters, but it does make for some great stories to tell. Whether they’re based on real life instances or completely fictional, there’s a great overarching threat of a character intend on killing not just one, but multiple – and occasionally vast numbers – of people.
Natural
It could be for good – maybe the people they’re killing are even more evil – for bad, or for the sake of random craziness, but however you slice it, the serial killer will remain a great villain in cinema. And the fact that it’s usually just another person – as all the entries on this listĀ  are – without any kind of supernatural powers or abilities makes them potentially all the more scary, because you could just walk down the street and never even know it’s them. You walk past Freddy Kreuger and you know something’s up. But Mark from Peeping Tom? Why, he’s just another guy with a camera, who’s he gonna hurt?Peeping
Oh, and bounty hunters like Anton Chigurh don’t count. He’s on a mission to kill one person, and anyone that gets in his way is just collateral damage. And this isn’t a list of my favourite movie serial killers – I’m not sure how I’d rank how much I like them – this is based purely on the movies they’re in. There’s also quite a few that didn’t make the list, purely because I haven’t seen them yet. Films like Night of the Hunter (which I should be getting to soon, hopefully), The Killer Inside Me (I want to read the book first) and Hitchcock’s Frenzy. Also, no documentaries, just because. And the few that I can’t actually remember very much about but do intend to catch up on include Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Natural Born Killers and the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre (which I’ll be getting to shortly too).Sweeney

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Top 10… Scenes That Creeped Me Out

It’s time for another top 10! And you know what that means… it’s time for me to tenuously link it to something in my life that happened this week! And wouldn’t you know it, I was only on another bleedin’ podcast. I even hosted it! I know! They asked me back, who’d’ve thought? Anyway, over at the Lambcast I hosted a show featuring the discussion of Peter Jackson’s Braindead (or Dead Alive, as it’s also known), along with Dan from Public Transportation Snob, Kristen from Journeys in Classic Film and Lindsay and Jess, both from friend-of-the-site French Toast Sunday. Spoiler alert: I bloody well loved the film, and recommend everyone go see it, as long as they have a little tolerance for gross-out scenes, as there’s plenty in there. Which leads me to this week’s Top 10, a celebration of the scenes in films that have creeped me out beyond belief. I tried to limit the amount of these from horror films, but some of them just crept on there, what could I do? And I’ve also limited to one scene per film, as there’s a few that could have monopolised the list, but we’ll get to that. Oh, and there’s definitely spoilers here.

Honourable Mention: Braindead 223515-dead_custard_superWell I had to include Braindead on here somewhere, seeing as it was the inspiration for this list. There’s a wealth of scenes to choose from, be it the removal of a zombie’s teeth with pliers or pushing in the bulging eyes of a recently deceased corpse (eye and teeth mutilation will be a running theme on this list), and the zombie baby came close – God I hate that zombie baby (also a theme), but the winner has to be the custard scene. After Lionel’s mother (Elizabeth Moody) is bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey, she turns into a zombie, complete with a pulsating bite on her arm. This unfortunate turn of events just happens to coincide with an important dinner meeting she has with the Mathesons, head of a group she wishes to become a member of, so she insists her son (Timothy Balme) host the meeting anyway. During the meeting, her wound squirts a delectable blood/pus mixture into the bowl of custard belonging to Mr. Matheson – which he then eats – and her own ear falls into her own bowl, which she then eats. This is quite possibly the closest I’ve ever come to vomiting purely from a film, especially because custard is consumed with alarming regularity in my house, and ever since I’ve not been able to bring myself to eat any more without thinking of that scene, and that just turns my stomach.
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Seven

A buddy cop movie with a seasoned old hand so close to retirement they’re already scraping his name off the door and his hotshot, firebrand young replacement, this couldn’t be further from another Lethal Weapon. Yes, one’s a family man and the other’s a loner, one is prone to anger and the other a methodical, careful detective clearly too old for this shit, but where Richard Donner’s 80’s staple is an entertaining, action-packed romp, this is something much darker.After a disturbingly evocative opening credits sequence enriched with depth and meaning on repeated viewings, we meet Morgan Freeman’s detective Somerset, picking up his last case, a sickeningly masterful serial killer with a penchant for the seven deadly sins, the same day as Brad Pitt’s Detective Mills arrives to replace him. That’s as much setup as there is, as we follow the mismatched detectives from crime scene to crime scene, via their headquarters and areas of research, with Somerset whiling a night away poring over books in the library, whilst Mills take a brief glance at the Cliff notes.

The script is dotted with well balanced moments of humour – Somerset having dinner with Mills and his wife Tracey (Gwyneth Paltrow) – and some deep black humour: “this guy’s sat in his own piss and shit; if he wasn’t dead he’d’ve stood up by now,” plus R. Lee Ermey’s belligerent, furious Police Captain (“This is not even my desk” is one of my favourite film quotes, ever).

Crucially, we see none of the killer’s murders onscreen, merely their gruesome aftermaths. It’s not as gory as you might remember, but it evokes imagery and feelings that some may find disturbing, not least what happens to Leland Orser’s character, who probably has the worst memories of those who survive. It could be argues that this is a precursor to the Saw franchise, punishing those that seem to deserve it in creative, torturous ways, but at least here we are saved the nightmarish spectacles of witnessing the deaths.

At times the film feels a bit predictable, like a police procedural itself, but whenever this is about to happen the plot shifts direction, taking an unexpected twist to shake things up again. The colour palette of muted greys and browns, interspersed with deep reds amongst the incessant torrential downpour of the nameless city only adds to the feelings of despair.

There’s small roles for John C. McGinley and Richard Schiff in there as well, a nice surprise for me in the opening credits, but unfortunately at times the acting, especially Pitt during the final scenes, leaves something to be desired. The ending has become the stuff of legend, but I won’t reveal it just in case, save that Pitt’s gurning and crying are a bit over the top and take you out of the scene. This is another one of those films where knowing your actors may ruin the film too, as recognising a voice could cause annoyances later on, but not too badly.

Overall this is director David Fincher’s defining film (better than Fight Club in my opinion, though it’s been a while). The gritty tone is perfectly realised through every medium possible, the plot is gripping, the twists hold up and, though far from an enjoyable experience, it remains worthwhile.

Choose filmĀ 10/10