Does a fascination with sociopaths make me a sociopath? Golly, I hope not. It’s the complete lack of empathy I can’t wrap my head around. And THAT’s what I find entirely fascinating. So, here’s a list of my favorite legends about fictional killers or movies based on actual killers.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
Serial Killer/Legend: Leslie Vernon
This is shot as a documentary. A film student explores a man as he starts his life as a killer. A legendary killer like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. He shows her his whole plan except for one teeny tiny detail. Also I recently learned there’s a sequel to this. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’d like to.
The Burning (1981)
Serial Killer/Legend: Cropsey
Cropsey is a real legend. Mostly in New York. Though you may remember his brief mention in an episode of Full House. Cropsey is camp legend. The Cropsey Maniac. Some would argue he’s a cautionary tale for campers to stay in their cabins after dark and stay on trails. But according to many New York residents he doesn’t just strike at camp. If you find yourself intrigued by the legend of the Cropsey Maniac, you should also maybe look into “Cropsey.” A documentary. An eerie documentary.
Serial Killer/Legend: Michael Myers
What’s interesting to me about the original Halloween movie is that it, by Hollywood standards, was very low budget, but it made millions. Makes millions. John Carpenter’s legend is about Michael Myers, who kills his sister when he is 6-years-old. 15 years later he breaks out of a mental institution and starts stalking Jamie Lee Curtis and killing off her friends. If nothing else, this movie should teach you never to babysit.
Child’s Play (1988)
Serial Killer/Legend: Charles Lee Ray (The Lakeshore Strangler) in the body of a Chucky
Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) is a serial killer on run from the law when he goes into a toy store to hide out. Knowing he’s trapped Charles puts himself around some Good Guy dolls and does a little voodoo. Now he’s locked in the body of a doll. The doll is given to a little boy and Charles Lee Ray introduces himself as “Chucky.” It doesn’t take much longer before Chucky starts killing everyone. Normal stuff.
From Hell (2001)
Serial Killer/Legend: Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper. You may have heard of him. He killed prostitutes in London in 1888? No. Well, he was never caught or identified. He operated with taunting letters. This movie follows the detective trying to catch the killer.
Serial Killer/Legend: Aileen Wuornos
Aileen Wuornos, played by Charlize Theron, was a prostitute turned killer who was tried for the murders of six men. A seventh murder never stuck. She was a real life killer who was executed in 2002. Her murders took place in the 1980s and ’90s. One murder was seen as self-defense. Hard up for money she takes to prostitution with the intent to kill her Johns and rob them. If you’ve ever watched a video of interviews with this woman, then you understand that she is genuinely horrifying and bonkers. If you haven’t, I suggest you don’t.
Serial Killer/Legend: Peter Kürten
Now, this is Fritz Lang’s first “talkie,” so be gentle. It’s a film noir piece about a man called Peter Kürten who killed children, so that’s a warning. The movie is more about the detective work and the reaction of families than the murders themselves.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Serial Killer/Legend: Sweeney Todd/Benjamin Barker
Now, I love me some Sondheim. A lot. What I don’t LOVE is good actors pretending they can sing just because Tim Burton doesn’t look outside his usual cast of characters anymore. I have a lot of issues with stage musicals turned film musicals, so I won’t get into that. But Sweeney is an interesting character. Even more interesting is Mrs. Lovett. It’s important I think to note too that Sweeney Todd was first a legend and then a play by George Dibdin-Pitt then a movie in 1928 based on the play then a musical by Stephen Sondheim and now we have this.
Dirty Harry (1971)
Serial Killer/Legend: Scorpio
Dirty Harry Callahan is looking for Scorpio. He’s just killed a young woman, and if he doesn’t get his money he’s killing a priest or a “nigger.” Murders commence and Harry has to get himself ahead of Scorpio. Scorpio, unlike other killers, seems driven by money rather than a need to kill or in the case of Sweeney or John Doe…point proving and lesson teaching.
Serial Killer/Legend: John Doe
Morgan Freeman has a new young partner, Brad Pitt. And they’re assigned to catch “John Doe” who is killing people for their sins. The seven deadly ones. John Doe is taking that deadly part literally.
Because I care about you, I’m going to tell you not to watch Dear Mr. Gacy. Just don’t do it. Please.
And that’s my last installment of Hauntober.
Or is it?
No. It is.