Netflix and Ryan Murphy found an unexpected hit in “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story ”. The critics were no fan of the show except for the sixth episode and the show got further criticism from some of the surviving family members of Dahmer’s victims. However, the accusations of a sensationalistic approach didn’t bother the audiences.
In fact, Netflix announced that Dahmer was the ninth most popular English-language TV show of all time with 56 million households having viewed all 10 episodes. Now, of course, we don’t know how reliable Netflix is when it comes to data like this but it’s pretty obvious from the internet that lots of people around the world did watch and like it. They also renewed the show for further seasons.
It seems we’re still fascinated by the sick and disturbing minds of serial killers. Many filmmakers have tried to go into the mind of those people by delivering great character studies on them. Some of those films and other kinds of serial killer films are listed below. If you liked the show, you might enjoy those as well.
10. Tony (2009)
Tony Benson is a lonely man. He’s obsessed with 80s action films (nothing wrong with that!), and he aimlessly wanders the streets in London. He can’t find a connection with other people and he has no job. Then we end up learning that he’s in fact, a serial killer. “Tony” is a rather more comedic film than the others on the list, though not entirely. In fact, it has a lot more common with “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” more than you’d expect, as it’s also a type of movie that you can just write off as “empty and exploitative” but also some others might be endlessly fascinated by it.
Peter Ferdinando is great in the leading role and his director, which happens to be his cousin, Gerard Johnson is also doing a pretty terrific job. What’s so great about his performance is that it keeps a great balance, it’s hard to create empathy for a despicable character without making him sympathetic or “cool”. The film is disturbing obviously but you won’t be checking out this list if you’d go for a feel-good film. One of the finest small-budget British indie features of the 2000s which deserved more attention.
9. The Tenderness of Wolves (1972)
We’ll go back to American cinema in soon which makes the majority of the films here. No surprise because when it comes to serial killers, the United States leads the way, and the subject had been explored rather well in many fantastic American films which some are missing from the list because they’re too popular to mention (“Zodiac”, “Se7en” and the list goes on) but the world cinema has produced a lot of great stuff on the subject as well. German cinema, in particular, has some great offerings starting with the masterpiece that is “M” (1931). Now here’s another strong film on the subject.
The film is based on the story of the German serial killer “Fritz” Haarmann known as the Butcher of Hanover among other names, who committed the sexual assault, murder, mutilation, and dismemberment of at least twenty-four young men and boys between 1918 and 1924. His story has also been the basis for another very fine German film called “The Deathmaker” (1995). As for this one, it’s certainly disturbing and also strangely poetic. The film has a lot of discomforting moments, especially when Haarmann is intimate with his victims. It also takes us back to a different era in Germany’s history with an authentic setting. The lead actor Kurt Raab is also giving a great performance in the leading role which even further elevates the film.
8. Strangled (2016)
Now we’re moving from Germany to Hungary. This time we’re introduced to the story of Péter Kovács, a Hungarian rapist and serial killer known for his crimes around the southern settlements of Szolnok, the county seat of Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok county in central Hungary. If you read more about the real-life case itself, it’s even more fascinating than the film but the movie is still doing a very good job, with involving, grim atmosphere. The killer is played by Karoly Hajduk who is very good at his job. The scenes where he follows his victims are particularly effective. The cinematography here is delivering a lot of excellent night-time visuals, which is in the tradition of great noir films.
Most of the actors are great, even though sometimes it might be little caricature-ish, still tight direction and a fine script keep them grounded. However, the film is admittedly more effective as a political one rather than a character study exploring serial killer’s mind or motives because it strikingly exposes how politics and personal ambition can have a devastating effect in an authoritarian state. Aside from some of the acting, the pacing can be uneven too at times but generally, “Strangled’ is a good piece to recommend to genre fans.
7. My Friend Dahmer (2017)
We finally came back to Dahmer. It’s not the first film about him and certainly will not be the last. The movie is based on a 2012 graphic novel and memoir by John Backderf about his teenage friendship with Jeffrey Dahmer, who later became a well-known serial killer. Before Jeffrey Dahmer became one of America’s most ruthless serial killers, he was a shy, alcoholic young man who never really belonged anywhere.
The film retells the true story from John Backderf’s book and thus throws a spotlight on Dahmer’s tense family situation and his fascination with dead animals as well as his violent fantasies. Gathering copious amounts of materials, Backderf later studied police and FBI files on Dahmer’s crimes and interviewed his former classmates and teachers. What makes the film strong and unusual is that it avoids sensationalism and instead brings us something more convincing and thoughtful. Like other strong films on such a subject, the film doesn’t condone its killer but also doesn’t shy away from portraying the social circumstances that led him to despair.
6. The Driller Killer (1979)
There’s no other director like Abel Ferrara. You can’t even describe what kind of films he makes exactly as there’s no way to know that both “King of New York” and “Tomasso” are exactly by the same director but he never ended up being intriguing, interesting, and involving. A unique filmmaker’s start of his career was “The Driller Killer”, a serial killer story that goes between grindhouse and arthouse. Ferrara brings his signature gritty atmosphere of New York City which already makes us involved. No wonder the film starts in a church, it’s a Ferrara film overall. He plays an artist who is struggling with lots of troubles. One day Under pressure to finish his oft-delayed grand masterpiece, his psychotic alter-ego takes over and he goes on a murder spree to boost his creativity.
“Violently artistic” is what one could describe Ferrara. While he’ll reach higher levels with his follow-up film “Ms. 45”, still “Driller Killer” is an unusual, odd, challenging experience for the fans of the genre. Not really similar but if you’re interested in another artist’s story who kills people for his creativity, you can check out Tim Roth’s “Tales from the Crypt” episode.