7. Jigsaw – Saw Franchise
You may be wondering why Jigsaw, the villain of the long-running torture franchise Saw, is on a list of serial killers, when technically he doesn’t actually kill people. Apart from cases of self-defence/preservation (for example, when he cut the detective’s throat in order to escape in the first Saw) Jigsaw doesn’t actually put down victims with his own hands.
But then, that’s the logic of Jigsaw himself that we’re buying into. Only in his mind is he “innocent” and doing a good deed by teaching people “lessons.” Looking at it from a logic point-of-view, Jigsaw is as much a serial killer as the rest of the killers on this list. As Donnie Wahlberg’s policeman Eric Matthews says in the second movie, “Putting a gun to someone’s head and forcing them to pull the trigger is still murder.”
Look at it this way: Without Jigsaw putting his plans/games in place, all those people wouldn’t be dead. He manufactures traps and puts people in impossible situations in which they have to choose between cutting out their own eye (to use just one example) or getting their head spiked from the front and back. The only difference between Jigsaw and other serial killers is that his violence isn’t immediate but rather delayed – nevertheless he still causes death.
Jigsaw is motivated by something so simple it’s almost poetic: To teach people lessons for not appreciating the life they have, whether that’s because the victim does drugs, “scoffs at the suffering of others,” or any other number of twisted views and so-called values. In his mind, if someone doesn’t appreciate their life then they don’t deserve to live.
Despite Jigsaw being dead and gone (as far as we know) for the past three Saw movies (only appearing in flashback form) he still sticks in my mind. The continually inept instalments of the Saw franchise still don’t take away from Jigsaw being a fascinating and rather chilling character.
6. Buffalo Bill – The Silence of the Lambs
Next on the list we have Buffalo Bill, the sadistic and seriously messed up serial killer from The Silence of the Lambs.
Buffalo Bill (a.k.a Jame Gumb) is motivated by his sexual orientation and perverse desires. It mustn’t be mistaken that he chooses his female victims for sexual gratification – he considers himself transsexual and murders his victims in order to cut off their skin and wear it so that he can feel like a woman.
Buffalo Bill specifically targets overweight women for this reason: he pretends to be in need and then kidnaps them using his van. Sadistically, he starves his victims until their skin is loose enough before he kills them and skins them, using their pieces for his “woman suit.” Just think for a moment how sick and twisted that is…
The iconic scene in The Silence of the Lambs when the police find a body with a moth larva down its throat is related to how Gumb is fascinated by the transformation cycles of moths – a perfect representation of his wish to change into a woman.
It’s a testament to how well-written and portrayed a character Buffalo Bill is that he is still memorably disturbing, despite being in the same movie as a certain psychiatrist killer (w’ell get to him in due time). Brilliantly played by Ted Levine, Buffalo Bill is as compelling as he is bloodcurdling.
5. Patrick Bateman – American Psycho
Patrick Bateman is one of those serial killers who can quite comfortably be placed in the crazy category. Although the movie he appears in, American Psycho, is more of a scathing look at the superficiality and materialism of 1980s Wall Street, that doesn’t take away from the brilliantly written and portrayed character of Bateman.
On the surface he’s a well dressed, extremely fit, well educated and good-looking businessman. But what his colleagues and the rest of the world don’t see is what’s underneath Patrick Bateman’s facade: a sadistic serial killer driven by a certain need to kill (much like TV’s Dexter Morgan).
His victims are usually women (prostitutes) but that doesn’t stop him from killing someone who upsets or annoys him. One memorable scene in American Psycho is when a homeless man asks Bateman for help. Instead of lending a hand, Bateman reaches into his suitcase, takes out a knife and stabs the man to death. To top it off, he savagely stomps the man’s dog to death – all because the man stank, didn’t have a job and (to paraphrase), “had nothing in common with him.” A seriously disturbed individual, I think you’ll agree.
The character is made all the more effective by a wonderful performance from Christian Bale. Bale almost always manages to embody the characters he’s playing, but nowhere is that as true as it is here. Patrick Bateman is portrayed as both friend and foe, as both a relatable “antihero” spouting his love for ‘80s pop music, to a sadistic villain with a penchant for chopping people up.
The ending of American Psycho is ambiguous in that it leaves it open to interpretation whether Patrick really killed anyone at all, or whether he just imagined it. If the latter is the true meaning of the ending, then Patrick Bateman isn’t a serial killer in any tangible sense.
However, I much prefer the explanation that he did kill people and it just went unnoticed because of how superficial the portrayed society is. For example, when Patrick finally confesses to his lawyer, his lawyer mistakes Patrick for someone else. Whether he killed for real or not, in his mind Patrick Bateman did kill those people. That’s what’s important to remember.
Iconic, quotable and with a constant air of creepiness (you’re never quite sure what he might do next), Bateman is one of my personal favorite movie serial killers.