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The Top 5 Notorious Serial Killers in Film

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  • The Top 5 Notorious Serial Killers in Film
  • Sally Luff
  • June 23, 2014

They send shivers down our spine, make our body hair stand-on-end and give us goose bumps. Killers are terribly frightening yet oddly intriguing. At 8.30pm over five dangerous nights next week, see the best in psychological thrillers from the most manic and merciless corners of the cinematic world, as we explore the mind of a killer in WM Killer Instincts. To get you in the mood we’ve listed the 5 most serial notorious killers in film.

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Anton Chigurh – No Country For Old Men

Javier Bardem as sociopath Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men (2007) is powerful, inexplicable and capable of anything. Described as ‚Äòthe devil incarnate,’ Chigurch is nothing like we’ve seen on screen before -a relentless, remorseless killing machine. Early on in the film Chigurh strangles a sheriff’s deputy, kills a driver of a car and bursts into a hotel room with guns blazing. Bardem on his character – ‚ÄúChigurh more than represents, he symbolises the violence. He shows that violence doesn’t really have an explanation sometimes, or any roots. It just happens, and it’s unstoppable.‚Äù It is this unexplained, cruel violence that makes Anton Chigurch a notorious killer in film history.

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Norman Bates – Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) is one of the most shocking films its original audience had ever seen, and to this day works as a frightening, insinuating thriller. Bates has two versions of himself – the quiet hotel manager and the unstable killer consumed by fear and guilt. Murder in the film is gradual, as early on Norman spies on the protagonist Marion in her underwear. Albeit creepy, it is not clear that death is to come. Later on, wearing a wig and dress to be his ‚Äòmother’, Norman kills Marion in the iconic shower scene. Shot in black and white, there are no shots of the knife striking the flesh and there’s only little blood – yet the shots of the blood spinning down the drain and Marion’s eyeball make for a disturbing death scene. Norman’s performance instils in us the fear of becoming victim to a madman.

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John Doe – Se7en

Se7en (1995) tells the story of two detectives who attempt to capture a perverted serial killer whose meticulously planned murders correspond to the seven deadly sins: gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, pride, lust and envy. In this dark and gloomy film, the killer, ‚ÄòJohn Doe’, is only on screen in the last half hour of the film. Yet in these last minutes Kevin Spacey’s performance is genuinely chilling. Played with just the right level of menace without being over the top, he portrays a twisted and articulate antagonist. For his ‚ÄòSloth’ killing he keeps a man on life support for a year, gradually watching him waste away. It is this twisted logic that makes him such a memorable serial killer in film.

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Patrick Bateman – American Psycho

On the surface, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (2000) is a well-dressed, fit, educated and good looking Manhattan businessman. However, unbeknownst to Patrick’s colleagues, he has a dark secret – he leads a double life as a sadistic serial killer. Bateman is a narcissist driven by ego and fuelled by greed. He destroys people who annoy him, anger him or get in his way. Christian Bale’s performance as a control freak spiralling out of control is frightening and convincing. In one scene, Bale even kills one of his colleagues because he has a better business card than him. Roger Ebert applauds the performance, ‚ÄúBale is heroic in the way he allows the character to leap joyfully into despicability; there is no instinct for self-preservation here, and that is one mark of a good actor.‚Äù There’s something particularly creepy about the ‚Äòevery-day man’ who is a killer – it makes you wonder if someone in your office could have a disturbing dark secret?

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Hannibal Lecter – The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) is undoubtedly one of the most well-known and talked about thrillers of all time. The thing that makes this film so notorious is its lead character Hannibal Lecter – who really is pure evil in the form of a person. It’s the stuff of nightmares, as ‚ÄòHannibal the cannibal’ hunts, skins and eats his victims. The real effectiveness of the character is how calm and calculating he is. He’s out of his mind, but not in an outward way. He speaks in a soft tone of voice and for the most part remains calm and methodical, making the character all the more spine-chilling. It was this portrayal by Anthony Hopkins that won him an Academy Award for Best Actor.

WM KILLER INSTINCTS begins on Monday 26 May at 8.30pm, and continues every night until Friday 30 May.

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