Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Killer Movies

Murder for Laughs

Arsenic and Old Lace
Arsenic and Old Lace

Not all movies about serial killers are serious. During the 1940s, Arsenic and Old Lace was made from a popular Broadway play about two elderly spinsters who murdered twelve homeless men and buried them in their basement. People laughed, but the truth is, in the 1980s, landlady Dorothy Puente was doing just that — or, actually, putting her victims in her garden as she collected their Social Security checks.

Serial Mom
Serial Mom

Kathleen Turner played a killer in the black comedy, Serial Mom (1994). Beverly Sutphin, married to a successful dentist (Sam Waterston), strives to be the perfect mother and wife in her perfect home in Baltimore, Maryland. When her son's teacher thwarts her, she runs him over, thus finding the solution for her frustration — just kill whoever's in her way. The fun lies in trying to guess what kind of household object she'll utilize next as a weapon. At one point in the film, Beverly even watches The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Silence of the Hams
Silence of the Hams

In 1994, The Silence of the Hams parodied a lot of slasher movies as Detective Jo Dee Foster (Billy Zane) hunts for a killer who has over 120 victims. The plotline follows both Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs, keying in on humorous twists to those serious themes and images. A few serial killer movies are parodied in the Scary Movie series.

While we can't begin to discuss all the movies that have ever been made about serial killers, we've covered many of the primary ones. Quite a few more are in the works, some of them based on actual killers and others entirely fictional. Such movies have perpetuated myths about killers, such as that they always look for the same victim type, they can't stop, and they're preternaturally clever, and will probably continue to do so. Since audiences seem to like this, the formulas will likely continue. However, with the artistic and commercial success of Monster, we may also see more along the lines of bio-pics. In addition, scriptwriters will probably take on more plots involving technology, a la CSI. Whatever direction such films take, despite critical complaints, serial killer movies appear to be here to stay — especially in October.

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