The deadly 5: Serial killers on the silver screen to die for


Serial killers are fascinating and make for good horror movie subjects. Case in point, Silence of the Lambs was so beloved by audiences it took home several Academy Awards. At 1428 Elm, we are going to take a look at 5 psychopaths on film to die for.

Serial killers are morbidly fascinating. Some of my favorite movies revolve around capturing these elusive murderers. From Silence of the Lambs’ Jame Gumb to Elijah Woods’ creepy Kevin in Sin City, the way an actor portrays these roles can make or break a film.

That is why we decided to highlight 5 serial killers on the silver screen that aren’t your typical over-the-top performances. The more lowkey an actor is the more believable his character is and that is when audiences are frightened out of their minds.

Serial Killers to Die for

George Harvey – The Lovely Bones

Serial Killers -George Harvey 2 – Stanley Tucci – The Lovely Bones – Courtesy of DreamWorks,Film4,WingNut Films

George Harvey appears to be a really nice, quiet and decent man. The kind of person who would be a good neighbor and watch your house while you are away on vacation. However, that is definitely not the case.

The maker of dollhouses has a dark secret. In this Peter Jackson film, Stanley Tucci is simply sublime as the creepy serial killer next door. Totally transforming his dark brooding looks into a blond-haired blue-eyed man, the actor does more than just physically alter himself.

He transforms into this complex creature. On one hand, you can feel his profound sense of loneliness but you also know that he murders young girls. The mere fact that he built a “playhouse” in the middle of a corn field to trap an unsuspecting Susie Salmon is downright diabolical.

When she agrees to follow him into the structure, she knows right away that something isn’t right. Harvey’s patience and stoicism as he watches her is frightening. Who needs Freddy Krueger when you have a real-life person who is capable of atrocities?

Stanley Tucci was understandably uncomfortable playing this part but due to the undeniably excellent script by Jackson’s partner, Fran Walsh, he gave this performance his all. There is no mystery as to why he garnered an Academy Award nomination.

John Doe – Seven

Serial Killers-John Doe – Kevin Spacey – Seven – Courtesy of Cecchi Gori Pictures,Juno Pix,New Line Cinema

John Doe is perhaps one of the most disturbing serial killers to appear in a movie in a long time. In the vein of Freddy and Jason, you have no real backstory, he comes out of nowhere and it hits you like a sucker punch to the gut.

In retrospect, this performance by Kevin Spacey is incredibly compelling considering what we now know about the actor. Doe is not a dumb man by any means. He is literate and has read the works of Thomas Aquinas.

The idea of killing people that violate the seven deadly sins is actually genius and very compelling. Doe justifies what he is doing by making himself judge, jury and executioner. Devoid of any real emotion, his cold demeanor and deadpan eyes tell you that a non-feeling murder machine dwells deep within his soul.

Perhaps the most chilling act that he commits is starving a pedophile to the point of a skeleton, pumping him full of drugs and leaving that husk of a human behind to terrify the SWAT team. Once you witness that scene, you cannot stop seeing it.

Originally, Spacey was not billed in the film. His identity was being withheld not only for marketing hype but also for the sheer horror factor.

Richard Thompson – The Bone Collector

Serial Killers -Richard Thompson – Leland Orser – The Bone Collector – Courtesy of Columbia Pictures Corporation,Universal Pictures,Mel’s Cite du Cinema

In this Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie thriller, the serial killer Richard Thompson has a signature way of murdering his victims. After particularly horrendous deaths, he leaves behind a fragment of their bones and slips of paper.

Enter Lincoln Rhyme, a bedridden paraplegic and brilliant detective. He is brought onto the case after a high-profile couple is found dead. With the help of the beautiful and wickedly smart, Amelia Donaghy they work together to find justice for the victims.

Donaghy is Rhyme’s eyes and ears since he can no longer go to crime scenes. As they get closer to learning the identity of the perp who is committing the heinous acts, people close to Rhyme start dying.

Finally, it is revealed that Thompson is the killer. Years ago, Rhyme sent him to prison for planting evidence. While in confinement, Thompson was severely beaten and abused. Vowing revenge, he goes on his spree when he is released from prison.

He works his way toward his target only to have his endeavors slip through his hands when Amelia comes to Rhyme’s rescue and kills Thompson on the spot.

The Hitcher – The Hitcher

Serial Killers -The Hitcher – Rutger Hauer – Courtesy of HBO Pictures,Silver Screen Partners

Finally, I get to write about one of my favorite actors, Rutger Hauer! Part of Hauer’s chilling performance as The Hitcher in this film has to do with his physicality. Let’s face it. He is a ruggedly handsome guy who knows how to turn on the charm when he has to but behind his crystal-clear cerulean eyes lies a stone-cold killer.

Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) is just trying to transport the car he is driving to its owner. Hauer on the other hand, sees him as a play toy. A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues. The Hitcher clearly enjoys the kill. What he enjoys more is attempting to frame Halsey for crimes he didn’t commit.

Hauer’s character is inventive with his methods of murder. He takes Halsey’s girlfriend, Nash (Jennifer Jason-Leigh) and ties her between two trucks. He demands Halsey kill him because the police are on to him now.

When Halsey refuses, after a tussle, The Hitcher ends up splitting Nash in two. That is the kind of scene that sticks with you which is why Hauer’s character deserves to be on this list. All I can say is the next time you order French fries, be very careful and observant.

Jack the Ripper – Time after Time

Serial Killers -John Stevenson – David Warner – Time after Time- Courtesy of Orion Pictures,Warner Bros.

John Stevenson (David Warner) is a renowned doctor and friend of H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell). Wells is building his famous time machine and shows it to Stevenson who is very skeptical. Little does Wells know what his compadre does in his spare time.

As it turns out John is moonlighting as Jack the Ripper unbeknownst to H.G. Just before he is about to be caught by the police, he escapes into the future in Wells’ time machine! What happens next is a chase across space and time.

Both men wind up in 1979 San Francisco and of course, Stevenson starts killing again. It is up to Wells to take his old friend down. Warner is a very measured actor. It is his unwavering demeanor that makes him an excellent conduit for devious roles.

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He cuts an imposing figure that when used properly is extremely intimidating. That is why he worked so well as Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner’s nemesis in Tron.

What did you think of our list? Have you seen the films? Feel free to leave us your opinions in the comments section below. We want to hear from you.