People are interested in crime stories. We have a bazillion true crime channels, Penguin released a new series of green crime Penguins, and we love the TV shows Sherlock (a guy solving crimes) and Dexter (a guy committing crimes while pretending to solve crimes). People are fascinated by serial killers and movies about serial killers. I don’t know why, I’m just a writing student. I wrote this list about some of the most famous serial killers and the movies created about them because I am also interested in crime, and I also like to watch movies and then talk about them excessively.
Jack the Ripper
The most famous unidentified serial killer in history, and possibly the most scary if you’re a prostitute in the 1880s. Suspects for the Ripper case include a number of butchers and doctors, and Lewis Carroll, author of the beloved children’s book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Jack the Ripper killed five women and did super horrible stuff to their bodies (like removing their uteruses—it’s like why dude? Why?). Despite the horrendousness of his crimes, Jack the Ripper is most likely dead, so there’s no longer a need to be afraid of him — unless he can time travel. In that case, if you are a prostitute, please stay safe.
There have been a few movies made about Jack the Ripper, but I’ve only ever seen From Hell, so that’s what I’m going to write about. From Hell was made in 2001 and it stars Johnny Depp as the dashing, opium-addicted Inspector with a tragic past who is tasked with solving the Ripper murders. Also, it stars some old dude as Jack the Ripper, but who cares you know, because Johnny Depp is there. Johnny falls in love with one of the girls he is supposed to be protecting, so there’s romance mixed in with all the genital mutilation. There are also sexy/terrible British accents, absinthe, Royal family conspiracies and psychic visions. Also Johnny Depp is there.
The Zodiac Killer
Another famous unidentified serial killer. He terrified northern California between the late 1960s to the early 1970s, so there’s a possibility that he may actually still be alive today. He has seven confirmed victims (two of whom survived). The Zodiac Killer wrote a series of letters to local newspapers, most of which included long and difficult cryptograms, only one of which has been definitively solved. One of the most interesting things about the Zodiac Killer is that there have been stacks of people coming forward and claiming that their father/neighbour/friend was the Zodiac Killer. People are still frightened by this case (me included – I’m freaking terrified over here), and people are still desperate to find out who he was. And if the Zodiac Killer is reading this now: please turn yourself in so I no longer have to worry that you’re standing outside my window waiting to kill me.
Zodiac is a 2007 film about the Zodiac Killer, directed by David Fincher and starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a stalwart reporter who puts the case above all else, as well as Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jnr. — top quality names for a top quality film. If those names don’t make you want to rush out and watch this film, then you should watch The Avengers. But if you’re a fan of spooky films then yeah, you should watch Zodiac. What I got from this film is that for some reason newspaper reporters seem to be more obsessed with solving the murders than the actual cops.
Son of Sam
A serial killer who was identified as David Berkowitz in 1977, basically because he got a parking ticket. He claimed that he had been commanded to kill by a dog possessing demon. He later withdrew these claims. The Son of Sam perpetrated a number of shooting incident and killed six people and wounded seven others, most of his victims being women. He later claimed not to be a woman hater (the dog possession thing is actually more plausible than this). The Son of Sam eluded the police for over a year and sent letters to newspapers. He achieved worldwide notoriety and fame, which disgusted the public at the time and led to the creation of legislature that disabled criminals from profiting financially from publicity for their crimes. Berkowitz is still in prison, serving six consecutive life sentences.
Summer of Sam is a 1999 film directed by Spike Lee and stars Adrien Brody as a punk and Romy from Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion — which is a much better film than this. The film shows the Son of Sam murders as more of a sub-plot, the main message being that just because someone wants to dress differently to you, it doesn’t make them a serial killer.
Words by Amber Dance