Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Killer Movies

Team Killers

Natural Born Killers
Natural Born Killers

A more gruesome depiction is Natural Born Killers, which is an ironic commentary on the public's consummate and oblivious fascination with serial killers. Oliver Stone produced this film, which came out in 1994 to mixed reviews and a great deal of controversy over the rampant and gratuitous violence.  Although the killing couple, Mickey Knox (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory Knox (Juliette Lewis) are based more on spree killers Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend than on serial killers, in fact they commit several murders as serial killers, too.

Stone's commentary that accompanies the DVD is illuminating, in terms of the symbols and colors he used to make his point: that the American public was far more devoted to violence than they wanted to admit, and the media glamorized it for commercial exploitation. (The popularity of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill and Kill Bill II attests to this appetite for graphic violence — and in fact, he wrote the original screenplay for NBK.)  Robert Downey Jr. plays a television journalist, Wayne Gale, who knows that "if it bleeds it leads," so he relentlessly pursues the story to boost his career and slake the public's thirst for details about Mickey and Mallory.  Ultimately, the pair kills off 52 people, many in gory scenes of mass murder.

Wedding, Boyd and Niemiec, in Movies and Madness, state that in most action and horror movies, "the purpose of violence is to stimulate, dazzle, and entertain."  It's just a way to get audiences into the theaters, with the promise of excitement.  This film takes that notion to an extreme.  Mickey gives an interview in which he says that violence is part of being human (echoing serial killer Ian Brady, one of the British couple known as the Moors Murderers).  In the end, after a lengthy and brutal scene in which prisoners are incited to turn on the guards, Mickey and Mallory execute Gale on camera.  Given the pessimistic view, the only surprise is that they didn't run together for president — and win.

Not as gruesome, perhaps, but just as disturbing is a cult favorite about an infamous pair of serial killers — killing both apart and together.


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