Category Archives: Serial Killer Films
Directed by David Fincher
Screenplay by James Vanderbilt
Based on the book by Robert Graysmith
Zodiac is a semi-fictional account of the serial murders in the San Francisco area in the late 1960′s and early 1970′s. Unless you’ve read the book by Robert Graysmith that the film is based on, I would imagine it’s hard to tell the fact from the fiction in the film. That could have been a big problem had the film been helmed by a lesser film maker. Directed by David Fincher, however, it actually works in favor of the film. As you remember, Fincher is the director that gave us Se7en as well as The Game and Panic Room. What that means is that he’s honed his craft and is a master at building and keeping suspense during even the most mundane of moments. Fincher is also very gifted when it comes to getting great performances out of his cast. Mark Ruffalo is a prime example. I’ve always liked him as an actor, but I also always felt that he was holding back in the roles he took on. In Zodiac we get the performance from Ruffalo that I always knew he was capable of delivering. Another example is Jake Gyllenhaal. Here in the role of San Francisco Chronicle political cartoonist and eventual Zodiac author Robert Graysmith, Gyllenhaal is cast as the film’s Boy Scout, a name he is even called a few times in the film. He is every man who refuses to give up, the one who continues to dig even at the cost of losing his family and possibly even his life.
Other than the murder of the Black Dahlia, Elizabeth Short, the Zodiac murders is one of the most famous unsolved crimes in the annals of American history. One wonders if the killer were to strike today would police be held as inept as they were nearly forty years ago. Remember, police didn’t have DNA and all the other luxuries of technologies that they enjoy today. Times have changed, which is good. The bad part is that the evil that men do remains the same.
Robert Graysmith and Paul Avery were not actually friends. Their relationship is fictionalized for the film.
Dave Toschi in real life was the inspiration for Steve McQueen‘s performance in Bullitt. In the film, Graysmith mentions that Toschi wears his gun like Bullitt. Avery replies that Bullitt got it from Toschi.
HENRY:PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER-United States-1990
Directed by John McNaughton
Written by Richard Fire and John McNaughton
“There’s a killer on the road,
His brain is squirming like a toad…”-Jim Morrison
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is as haunting and as chilling a film as you are ever likely to see. Loosely based on the life of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, it is a terrifying look through the eyes of a killer. It is obvious from the beginning of the film that Henry doesn’t just want to kill, he has to kill. He is a predator among the weak, picking them out when they are alone and striking with murderous precision. The only anchor that Henry has in his life to keep him centered is Becky. Like Henry, Becky is damaged goods. She falls in love with Henry because she feels that they are mirror images of each other. She was molested by her father; he was forced by his mother, a whore, to watch her fornicate with strangers. Yes, Henry and Becky are a lot alike; but Becky chose to live a good life despite the indiscretions against her. Henry, however, chose evil.
Oh, and let’s not forget Otis, Becky’s brother and Henry’s friend. The three of them share an apartment together. Otis soon becomes Henry’s willing, accomplice in his kills. However, he is also the line that Henry draws between right and wrong, albeit twisted as it is. Henry stops Otis when he makes advances toward Becky. To his twisted sense of morality, that’s something you just don’t do.
There are a few glaring errors in the film. In the opening scene we see a woman naked and dead lying on the side of the highway like garbage. As the camera pans away we see her eyes move ever so slightly. The same goes for a woman later in the film whom we see draw a breath, although she is clearly dead. But these things are trivial and should not be held against the film. The film works on the strength of its performances. Michael Rooker is brilliant as Henry. This is his first major role and he carries it with all the intensity of a seasoned professional. Tom Towles and Tracy Arnold are strong in their supporting roles as Otis and Becky. But from the beginning we are very aware that this is Rooker’s moment to shine.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is not for the weak-hearted. It is an unflinching, uncompromising portrayal of the evil that dwells within the human psyche. There are no ghosts, no vampires, no werewolves or demons. Only a man named Henry. We have met the killer and the killer is us.
After filming the family massacre scene, actor Tom Towles (Otis) insisted that actressLisa Temple (who plays the mother) go to the casualty department because he was convinced he had injured her neck for real when he snapped it. Temple herself was confidant that no damage had been done, but for Towles’ piece of mind, she did go to casualty, where she received a clean bill of health. Over time, this story has evolved into an urban myth that Temple had to go to hospital because she was so traumatized by shooting the scene, the content of which the filmmakers had concealed from her prior to shooting. As she herself tells it in Portrait: The Making of ‘Henry’, there is no truth in this story whatsoever. She went to the hospital purely as a precaution.
During its release limbo, tapes circulated around Hollywood which won many roles forMichael Rooker including one in Eight Men Out.
Michael Rooker said he was working as a janitor when he auditioned for the part of Henry and went to the audition in his janitor uniform. He got the part, and continued to wear his uniform throughout the film shoot. He only had one jacket, though, so he took it off before he “killed” anyone so he wouldn’t get blood on it.