Let’s face it, in one way or another we all find morbid and gruesome facts a bit (a lot for me) attractive, even if we don’t want to admit it. Believe it or not serial killers have always been part of the pop culture. From books to movies their stories inspired writers, directors and musicians. Cinema is the cultural space in which this phenomenon is perhaps most conspicuous, the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com) lists over 1000 films featuring serial killers and most of the contributions to this sub-genre have been made since 1990. Psycho, a novel written by Robert Bloch in 1959 is inspired by the story of Ed Gein an american serial killer. The novel was then adapted into a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1960. The film was a huge success that generated three sequels, spin-offs and a shot-for-shot remake by Gus Van Sant. Ed Gein has also inspired the creations of various characters as we can see in movies like Deranged, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Silence of the Lambs, The House of 1000 Corpses and its sequel The Devil’s Rejects.
Fan of the charming Dr Hannibal Lecter? The famous cannibalistic serial killer created by Thomas Harris in The Silence of the Lambs, was reportedly inspired by a convicted Mexican doctor who he met in the state prison of Nuevo Leon, Monterrey, Mexico, as a young journalist. During various discussions Harris had with “Dr. Salazar,” he discovered that, besides having a medical preparation, was also a murderer who ate his victims.
Of course, these are just a couple of examples otherwise I could go on and on, there are Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, Albert Fish, Andrej Čikatilo and a lot more that with their atrocious acts became (in)famous and gave a lot of inspiration to those who have been created (and still creating) movies, books, series and songs… and that we all enjoy.
But the main point is: Why we “love” serial killers? Why we find them so interesting? In many ways, serial killers are for adults what monster movies are for children, that is, scary fun! However, the pleasure an adult receives from watching serial killers can be difficult to admit, and may even trigger feelings of guilt. As for me I’ve always been “fascinated” by their stories and I’ve always openly admitted it, but by “fascinated” I mean I’m interested in their background and what could have been the main cause that brought them to commit what they did. The serial killers represent a lurid, complex and captivating presence among us and there appears to be an innate human tendency to identify or empathise with all things, whether good or bad, including serial killers. Speaking of which, I still remember when I watched Dahmer a film about Jeffrey Dahmer’s life; somehow understanding his loneliness I started to see him more like a human being, but of course nothing changes with what he has done nor I’m saying -“Oh poor thing!”, what I’m trying to say is that with these films about serial killers lives, sometimes directors depict their most and more subtle human side that makes us reflect and think.
I’d love to know your thoughts and opinions about this topic. Do you feel fascinated, or at least, interested by these characters? What do you think about popular culture idolizing serial killers? Let me know!