It’s hard to define a “serial killer movie” as there can be a serial killer in all kinds of films; it can be a social justice film or it can be a political film. It can be about how we want to explore the psychology of those people, similar to “Angst” or “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.” Those two are also worth watching if you haven’t seen them, but then there are mystery movies, where we don’t know who’s committing crimes and we want to find out.
The following 5 films are all different from each other, but all are interesting or entertaining works. Some raise socio-political questions about the treatment of killers by the law, and some are trying to explore their psychology – to dramatic or even comedic effects. Some others are just mysteries where we want to find out what’s going on. So hopefully there’s something for everyone.
5. Felicia’s Journey
Felicia, a young unemployed Irish woman from a humble background, meets Johnny, who is about the same age, in her hometown. After a brief romance, Johnny makes his way to England to, as he says, take up a job in a factory in Birmingham. When he said goodbye to Felicia, Johnny promised her that he would write a letter to give her his address as soon as he arrived in England, but no letter was received. Felicia’s father tells her that in truth, Johnny went to England to join the British Army, which makes him unsustainable for her father. Felicia doesn’t believe him. When she finds out that she is pregnant, she leaves her hometown and heads to Birmingham to find Johnny. While looking for Johnny, she meets the single elderly Hilditch, who works as a master chef and canteen manager in a large factory. He offers to let her live with him until she finds Johnny.
The 1990s was a decade where serial killer movies were in demand due to successes of “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Se7en,” but “Felicia’s Journey,” based on an acclaimed novel with a masterful performance from Bob Hoskins, stands out for several reasons. The interweaving of story lines may be unexpected for some audiences, but it helps to develop the characters even better. The superb performances make it worth watching, while getting the message behind the film may take repeated views.
4. Memoir of a Murderer
He killed his abusive father when he was a teenager; he decided that some people deserve to die, but the day comes for this serial killer when he ends up in an accident that results with him having degenerative Alzheimer’s disease. His conditions worsened through the years, but the time has now come for him to protect his daughter from her psychotic boyfriend.
As it is obvious from the plot, this is not your usual serial killer story and it goes to places you don’t expect. Like another film on the list, this has an alternative ending that you should check out as well and make up your mind on which one you prefer more. One thing for sure is that South Korean cinema stands out for their dark atmospheric thrillers, and this one is also among some of the most original ones of the recent years, even though it didn’t get much attention compared to some. Those who like “I Saw the Devil” may particularly enjoy this one, though it has a bit of a “Memento” spin on it, or maybe “Insomnia.” But it’s surely a ride worth taking. There’s also an impressive lead performance that remains fascinating to watch.
3. The Voices
Its humor can be alienating to some, or to many, but to those who enjoy this type of black humor will find “The Voices” truly entertaining. Marjane Satrapi’s vision is certainly something as she puts this likable guy in our center who later goes out of control on a murdering spree because of his sinister pets. It’s even hard to describe the plot without making it sound too weird, but it’s weird in a cool way.
The lead character is played perfectly by Ryan Reynolds in probably his best performance. It’s probably his best because it gives him a chance to do almost everything; it has its charm, it has his dark side, but also when we explore the lead character and the events that led him to become what he is, the movie becomes somewhat sincere and dramatic. Reynolds plays all of those sides exceptionally well, making us find his character as funny, sad and creepy at the same time, which is also the tone the movie goes for.
Then the whole ending has a delightful musical sequence that can be addicting. Reynolds later went on to say about this film: “One of my favorite movies I’ve ever done. Never really got its day in court, but man, it’s weird and fun and beautiful.” He sure is right, though then again given the nature of the film and how its tone won’t necessarily appeal to general audiences, it’s understandable why it remained overlooked. Oh and those pets; he voices them all as well.
2. The Hitcher
In horror films, there’s something alluring to a relentless and unstoppable killer whose motivation is only to destroy innocent life with nihilistic, almost supernatural fervor. Part of the reason the original Halloween is still so frightening lies in its chillingly effortless ability to present Michael Myers as a figure of death itself: no reason, no rhyme, he won’t stop until you stop breathing. The original The Hitcher operates on many of the same levels, as the simplicity of its premise about a couple (C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who takes on a dual role, as the top and bottom halves of her body) hounded by a murderous maniac hitchhiker (Rutger Hauer) takes full advantage of the unresolved mystery surrounding the killer’s motivations. (Transform the truck from Duel into Rutger Hauer, and you get The Hitcher.) Director Robert Harmon’s film casts an appropriately icky, low-grade aura, perfectly fitting the killer’s philosophical point-of-view, an aesthetic approach that eludes the makers of the ill-fated 2007 remake, which looks too glossy to work on a visceral level. Also, with all due respect to Sean Bean, he’s no Rutger Hauer.
I hate to use the word “meandering,” because it sounds like an insult, but David Fincher’s 2007 thriller is meandering in the best possible way—it’s a detective story about a hunt for a serial killer that weaves its way into and out of seemingly hundreds of different milieus, ratcheting up the tension all the while. Jake Gyllenhaal is terrific as Robert Graysmith, an amateur sleuth and the film’s through line, while the story is content to release its clues and theories to him slowly, leaving the viewer, like Graysmith, in ambiguity for long stretches, yet still feeling like a fast-paced burner. It’s not Fincher’s most famous film, but it’s absolutely one of the most underrated thrillers since 2000. There are few scenes in modern cinema more taut than when investigators first question unheralded character actor John Carroll Lynch, portraying prime suspect Arthur Leigh Allen, as his facade slowly begins to erode—or so we think. The film is a testament to the sorrow and frustration of trying to solve an ephemeral mystery that often seems to be just out of your grasp.
Other mention -The Silence of the Lambs
In the face of grotesque sequels, lesser prequels and numerous parodies, The Silence of the Lambs still stands as a cinematic work of art among crime dramas and serial killer movies, only the third film ever to win the five gold rings of Oscar-dom: Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay. Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of the murderous Hannibal Lecter especially proves the worth of surrounding one of cinema’s greatest thespians with a stellar supporting team, though director Jonathan Demme deftly wields the brush of that talent to bring audiences into the dark, sadistic world of Dr. Lecter while leaving them gasping at the twists and turns of novelist Thomas Harris’ gruesomely wonderful story. As happens with all great films, second and third viewings fail to diminish the ride, but instead reveal even more subtleties of characterization. And Demme’s own style behind the camera makes the close-up world of Silence of the Lambs an unforgettable visual parlor of grotesqueries.