(Credit: Netflix)

Films

The most horrifying portrayals of real-life serial killers

The morbid fascination with murder is a global phenomenon, for better or for worse, and most likely for worse, we can’t escape the psychological draw of the demimonde’s darkest characters. This trend continues to grow. The most recent craze is Netflix’s Monster: The Jeffery Dahmer StoryIt’s a tale we’ve all heard before, but with an appetite for true crime at an all-time high, people are hungry for more. 

Part of the reason we lust for such dark entertainment is the mystery these stories entail. Even when they are solved, the mystery remains regarding just how such horror came to pass. We are hardwired to be titillated by this.

It is evolutionarily advantageous to understand and solve things beyond our grasp. The draw of the serial killer resides in the fact that they are largely an unsolvable puzzle. 

This is an element that enters the debate of whether we should be enjoying them at all. This rehashing of trauma for entertainment is definitely condemnable, however, some have argued that the saving grace is that these explorations further our understanding of the societal elements and contributing factors which can be mitigated. It’s up to the creators to ensure that this is at the forefront and far more paramount than merely turning tragedy into entertainment. 

These performances epitomise the essential psychological and societal elements that make the movies worthwhile. 

The most horrifying portrayals of real-life serial killers:

Daniel Hanshall in The Snowtown Murder

Geography has a hand in everything. Where we grow up is a shaping factor on our eventual character. The impoverished suburb of Salisbury in Adelaide, Australia is a gruelling environment, but the crimes of murderous ringleader John Bunting far outsized anything that the urban decay had induced before. 

His twisted tenet as a serial killer was to rid the world of those he deemed deserved death. In a homophobic rampage begins a dark pursuit and soon acts as a Svengali bringing in impressionable youngsters into his ‘gang’. The darkness thereafter proves sickening beyond belief as the town is beset by killings. Eventually, the police would discover eight bodies stored in barrels in an old bank vault. 

Hanshall’s performance unspools with brilliant control. He displays how violent eruptions can be the product of years of bubbling dormancy. Somehow, he also depicts both the vulnerability of Bunting, and how he was able to dominantly force others under his spell. 

Watch Snowtown on Netflix now.

Evan Peters in Monster: The Jeffery Dahmer Story

Jeffrey Dahmer has been one of the most widely documented serial killers in history. His callous disregard has been stewed over in many portrayals. However, Peters captures the truly gruesome nature of his crimes with nauseating horror making his casual nature all the more perplexing. 

Moreover, given that this insight displays how such tragedies went unsolved due to prejudice, Peters can place the character in wider society. Thus, it might be gore and violence that is turning stomachs, but the true terror lingers in the scenes where he simply strolls among us as a neighbour. Peters serves up this duality with informative ease—his frequent underplaying fits the angle of this exposition perfectly.  

Watch Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story on Netflix now.

Charlize Theron in Monster

You could be mistaken for not realising that Charlize Theron was ever in Monster such is the extent of her exacting transformation. While props must go to hair and makeup for the realism behind her portrayal of Aileen Wuornos. With shuddering naturalism, you get to see the way that Wuornos relished her crimes with an almost voyeurism angle. 

As a prostitute, Wuornos shot dead and robbed several male clients. She was convicted of six counts of murder and after 12 years on death row, she was executed by lethal injection. With brutal rage, she vowed, “I would just like to say, I’m sailing with the rock, and I’ll be back, like Independence Day with Jesus.” With sickening repulsion for the viewer, Theron somehow portrays this bubbling anger without ever overacting or reverting to fictional tropes. 

Watch Monster on Netflix now.