They strike fear into the hearts of millions of viewers. They’re terrifying and vicious characters who are out to satisfy their thirst for blood. Viewers will watch as these horrifying characters stalk and murder innocent people, but they know that in the end, justice will likely prevail. What many fail to realize is that, some of these scary characters are actually inspired by real serial killers, which just makes them all the more terrifying. Unfortunately, in real life, justice doesn’t always prevail or sometimes it can happen too late. Luckily, Hollywood can put a spin on anything, no matter how gruesome the story truly is. Hollywood has produced horror films and psychological thrillers that contain some of the most unique and iconic antagonists. These films would be nothing without the sick and sadistic monster. Regardless if they have a disfigured face, strange behaviour or look like the all American boy, deep down inside they are a hideous monster, much like the real life inspiration. Here is a look at 6 of the scariest and most terrifying fictional serial killers inspired by real serial killers.
6) Leatherface – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974
“The Film You Are About to See is True.”
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is about a group of friends who become victims to a deranged family of cannibals. The son of the family, Leatherface, murders his victims with a chainsaw and then makes a mask out of their skin. The film was groundbreaking, especially in its depiction of violence, which was influenced by the disturbing images of the Vietnam War. Also, the plot of the story is completely fictional, however, the film opens with the line “The film you are about to see is true.” The director, Tobe Hooper felt that the U.S government had lied to the public, specifically the Watergate scandal, and this was a reflection of that betrayal. Wisconsin murderer, Ed Gein is one of the most notorious killers of all time and has been an influence on several fictional serial killers. Directors have used different aspects of his crimes and life. Leatherface and Ed Gein shared similarities in their crimes and both wore the skin of their victims. Ed Gein confessed to committing two murders and spending a lot of his time grave robbing. When investigators searched Ed Gein’s home, they found human skin covering furniture, bowls made from human skulls and a wastebasket made out of human skin. Leatherface remains one of the scariest and most iconic fictional serial killers.
5) Buffalo Bill – The Silence of the Lambs 1991
“I do wish we could chat longer, but I’m having a friend for dinner.” – Dr. Hannibal Lecter
The Silence of The Lambs is about a young F.B.I trainee who gets advice from serial killer and prisoner, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, in her search of another serial killer, Buffalo Bill. Buffalo Bill, real name Jame Gumb, targeted overweight women, he would fake an injury and once they got closer, he’d kidnap them. He murdered these women with the intention to use their skin to make a “woman suit” for himself. Buffalo Bill was based on several serial killers. The first is Ed Gein, who would wear the skin of his victims. Also, Ted Bundy, who faked an injury to get close to his victims. Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, who inserted foreign objects into his victims and dumped their bodies in the woods. Lastly, Jerry Brudos, who kept his victims’ shoes and dressed up like them. Although overshadowed by Hannibal, Buffalo Bill remains one of the most terrifying fictional serial killers.
4) Scorpio – Dirty Harry 1971
“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, Punk?” – Harry Callahan
Harry Callahan, Clint Eastwood, is a no nonsense cop who doesn’t go by the book. Dirty Harry follows Callahan on his search for Scorpio, Andy Robinson, a sick killer who sends letters to the police taunting them after he commits his crimes. Although not a horror film, Scorpio’s crimes are sickening and terrifying, such as raping and burying a girl alive. Scorpio was loosely based on The Zodiac Killer, who terrorized the San Francisco area in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The Zodiac killer generally targeted couples sitting in cars. Soon the murders gained mainstream attention and the Zodiac Killer began sending letters to the police and press taunting them. The Zodiac Killer has never been caught and the case remains unsolved. Luckily, Harry Callahan was able to kill Scorpio.
3) Ghostface – Scream 1996
“Do You Like Scary Movies?” – Ghostface
The cult-horror classic, Scream is credited with revitalizing the horror genre in the late 90’s. The film helped make huge stars out of Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courteney Cox. The plot revolved around a sadistic serial killer, Ghostface, who is hunting down a group of teenagers. The film was known for its graphic violence, dark comedy and characters openly discussing the horror genre and cliques. Ghostface is based on The Gainesville Ripper, Danny Rolling, who killed five university students and later confessed to many more crimes. His killing spree began in August of 1990, he broke into the houses of University students, where he brutally murdered and mutilated them. The brutality of the crimes is similar to the killers in Scream. When he was caught, he confessed to the killing and stated that his motive was to become famous, which shares similarities to the killers, Billy and Stu in Scream, who do it to become famous and gain revenge.
2) Dr. Hannibal Lecter – The Silence of the Lambs 1991
“A census taker once tried to test me, I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” Hannibal Lecter
Dr. Hannibal Lecter was a brilliant psychiatrist, who also happened to be a sadistic, cannibalistic, serial killer. He’s appeared in a number of books and movies, but most famously appeared in the 1991 crime-horror, Academy award winning film The Silence of the Lambs. The plot followed F.B.I trainee, Jodie Foster, who goes to Dr. Lecter, for advice to help her capture another serial killer, Buffalo Bill. The film was tremendously successful and Anthony Hopkins won an Academy Award for his chilling performance as Hannibal. The author of the novel that the film was based on, Thomas Harris, would reveal only a bit of information on who the character was based on. It’s believed that while on a trip to Mexico, a young Thomas Harris was at a prison on an unrelated story when he met a prisoner. Hannibal Lecter is based on Dr. Alfredo Balli Trevino, a physician who had killed and mutilated his best friend and lover. It’s also believed that he killed several hitchhikers and dismembered their bodies.
1) Norman Bates – Psycho 1960
“We all go a little mad sometimes.” – Norman Bates
Norman Bates manages the Bates Motel and lives nearby with his domineering mother, Norma. Norman seems to be kind, well mannered and very polite. His mother taught him well…maybe too well. Norman is actually very disturbed and as the title suggests, is a psychopath. In the 50’s, monsters in horror movies where usually some type of hideous creature, such as Frankenstein’s Monster. Alfred Hitchcock introduced a new kind of monster with his groundbreaking and classic horror film, Psycho. The plot revolved around a young women who robs her boss of money and goes on the run. She ends up at Bates Motel where she meets Norman and is never seen again. The film was a massive success and is credited with changing cinema, especially with the graphic violence. Norman is based on Wisconsin serial killer, Ed Gein. Although, he’s not technically a serial killer as he’s confessed to two murders, that of Mary Hogan in 1954 and Bernice Worden in 1957. As a child, Ed Gein was described as being shy and honest, which is similar to the portrayal of Norman. Their mothers were both very controlling and harsh. They also told their sons that all women are evil, with the obvious exception being themselves. Ed Gein would dress up in the clothes of his victims, while Norman dressed up in his mother’s clothes after he presumably killed her. Ed Gein was convicted of the murder of Bernice Worden and spent the rest of his life in a mental facility, which is the same fate as Norman Bates.