6 Realistic serial killer movies that get it right


Many of us have an undeniable fascination for serial killers, I’m no exception, which is why I could, and probably will, write many more serial killer-related lists in the future. I feel like I have an endless amount of movies about maniac killers that I could share with you, but for now – I’ll stick to some that you might have missed.

These are six movies that I feel have a very realistic portrayal of serial killers. They dig deep into the psyche of what makes them, drives them and satisfies them – and let me tell you, it’s not always as pretty as Hollywood tends to make it seem.

Chained (2012)

Chained 2012 horror movie

Director Jennifer Lynch takes a deep dive into the twisted world of a serial killer, and the decent is as disturbing as it is heart wrenching. She battles the eternal question of what makes someone evil. Do monsters create monsters? The result is a movie that will simmer in your head and heart for years after watching it.

Tim and his mother take the taxi home from the cinema, but the driver turns out to be a psychotic serial killer and ends up brutally killing the mother. 9-year-old Tim is chained up, given a new name (Rabbit) and a list of duties and rules to oblige to. The years go by and the once happy child has now become a deprived young man. With age comes responsibilities, and Bob now expects his abductee to partake in his morbid interests.

Chained is a tough movie to watch, not just for the horrid scenes but for the absolute amazing performance from child actor Evan Bird. I genuinely felt bad for him (I mean the real him) for having to act out so much pain. Vincent D’Onofrio performance as the serial killer is as good as it is terrifying. A realistic story that you can easily imagine has taken place and continues to.

Maniac (2012)

Maniac 201Maniac 2012 Elijah Wood as a serial killer2 Elijah Wood as a serial killer

Serial killer Frank is presented to us from a first-person perspective, a unique acting challenge for Elijah Wood, whose face we only see through strategically placed mirrors. As an audience we see everything he sees, and as his breath puffs us in the neck we are given a unique feeling of being inside the mind of a real psychopath. A truly unique and unsettling experience.

Frank works alone in a store that has been inherited for generations, where he restores old mannequins (something only serial killers do, right?). He is scarred for life by childhood trauma and at night he spends his time driving around in search of his next victim to fall in love with, stalk and finally violently scalp. The routine is interrupted when unsuspected feelings arise for photographer Anna, who knocks on the door one day, interested in doing an exhibition with Frank’s mannequins. They start hanging out, but the monster inside him is hard to keep at bay.

The mix between the first person perspective, techno music and neon colors makes for a trippy experience. Elijah Wood makes an excellent performance, one that really gets to you. With nothing but his voice to rely on, he sucks us into the mind of a serial killer and even makes us feel compassion for him.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

Henry A Portrait of a Serial Killer

A very realistic portrayal of a serial killer, one that chills you to the very bone. Director John McNaughton brings forward a movie that not only shocks you, but one that stays with you years after you first watched it.

Henry lives in Chicago and shares an apartment with his former cellmate, Ottis. On the surface Henry appears to be a friendly guy, but the truth underneath is entirely different. He is a stone cold serial killer who with the help of Ottis killed hundreds of people. They also enjoy taping their murders and use it as their Friday entertainment. Suddenly they receive an unexpected visit from Otti’s sister, who just left behind her troubled life in New York and is looking to start fresh. But how fresh can you start, living with two psychopathic serial killers?

Sure, there’s some violence in this movie, but really it’s a very intimate character study, brilliantly upheld by the fantastic acting and atmosphere. The cinematography tells a story, with the camera being close and intimate on scenes involving Henry revealing a part of his life he’s not proud of. The violent scenes are very different. There, McNaughton chooses to film from a distance, forcing us to watch with a frightening objectivity.

The House that Jack Built (2018)

The House that Jack Built Scene

So it’s probably not a secret by now that I’m a huge fan of the ever-controversial director, Lars Von Trier. Needless to say, I was beyond excited when I found out he was working on The House that Jack Built, which was in… 2014 or something. It was an endless wait, but in 2018 I could finally sit back and enjoy it, and enjoy it I did.

Jack, a morbidly compulsive serial killer, guides us through five different circles of hell in this darkly humorous horror drama. The women he kills are according to himself randomly selected, but to a greater or lesser degree they all seem to form a cornerstone of his twisted personality. Women mutilated, children murdered, animals dismembered – all with a delightful tongue in cheek. It’s strange, but it works.

The House That Jack Built is a piece of art. A brutal piece of art. It’s a movie that gives more food for thought than the combined annual Hollywood releases put together, if you can see past the violence. What we see is a self-portrait of a hunted soul, the movie’s creator. Jack believes his murders are a piece of art. He is chased by the (critics) police who want to stop him, and so his work becomes increasingly advanced, ambitious and pretentious, yet few understand what he wants to say. Pretty much Trier’s “drop the mike – out”, leaving the feature film world behind him (which I’m absolutely in denial about btw).

Stoker (2013)

Stoker 2013 scene

Park Chan-wook, known for Oldboy and Lady Vengeance made his first English speaking movie with Stoker. A horror movie where the violence lays not in actions but in the atmosphere. Every dinner feels like a massacre, yet no blood is shed. Poised comments and soulless smiles become the violence that hover over each polite exchange.

After only child India loses her beloved father, life turns still and somber. She wanders around the family’s big white wooden house most days, awkward about life. India’s relationship with her icy mother is non-existent, and so the days pass in silence. But the passive existence is quickly spearheaded when her father’s unknown brother, Charlie appears. India’s distrust in her uncle grows as fast as her mother’s desire for him.

Park Chan Wook is a master when it comes to not only brining a story to life, but treating your senses while doing so. There is not one ugly scene. Every shot is visually stunning and enhanced by an incredible audio experience. The director took to Hollywood for the movie, but he clearly demonstrated which clich├ęs to use and which to refrain from.

The Golden Glove (2019)

The Golden Glove movie

We all know serial killers are glorified in movies more often than not. I’m a sucker for it myself, and my morbid fascination for serial killers is what led me to find this deep buried gem. But The Golden Glove does not romanticise in any shape or form. It is a biopic that captures the absolute disguising person responsible for several women’s death in the 70s.

Director Faith Akin’s gives you a glimpse into the life of serial killer Fritz Honka who murdered several women in Hamburg, Germany in the 70s. Straight to the point and stripped of any allure, the movie really stinks. Not that it’s not bad – it stinks in the way that you’ll hold your nose. It’s so vile I seriously got phantom smells.

I advise against watching this movie if you’re even remotely sensitive. The Golden Glove is fully without jump scares or suspense, it’s a repulsing story depicting human filth at its absolute lowest level. Don’t watch it if you’re after a horror-thrill. Watch it if you want to see what a true serial killer looks like. It’s not pretty.

Written By


I've always had a deep love and fascination for movies, being an especially strong advocate for the weird, foreign, underrated, under-budgeted and unfairly NC17 rated films of our world. Cinesister is the embodiment of this passion (which some might call an obsession).

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