Within horror there is an entire subgenre dedicated to our favorite prolific horror movie killers. Whether this be Michael Myers slowly chasing constantly falling teenage girls, Jason Voorhees preventing premarital sex, or Freddy Kruger committing dream murders before Inception made it mainstream. Alongside being a horror movie enthusiast, I also have a passion for investigating criminal justice cases and, in particular, serial killers. What I found interesting when I started to really look at horror movie murderers was that many of them, knowingly or unknowingly, drew inspiration from real killers that have terrorized the general public. So in a reality vs fantasy match up of sorts I have three infamous film murderers to compare with their factual counterparts.
First up is Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Ed Gein. Now, honestly, Ed Gein really isn’t a serial killer because he only took the lives of two women, but what he is known for places him alongside some pretty celebrated names. Leatherface is a grunting, brutal character who chases and kills innocent young people then uses their flesh for such things as his human leather mask: Hence the name Leatherface. And although he is based onEd Gein, the only similarities between Leatherface and Gein are weird uses for human skin, particularly a suit of skin to make them look like women. Ed Gein is a natural born cheese head, born and raised in Wisconsin, and because of his mental disabilities was more vulnerable to his mother’s incestuous relationship with him. Gein grew up rarely leaving the house and hardly communicating with other human beings aside from his mother. When she passed away Gein was an adult, but his relationship with his mother lived beyond her death, her rotting corpse was Gein’s only company. What Gein is known for is that he would rob the graves of women and take various parts of their bodies for use around the house. He had bowls that he made out of human skulls, lampshades that were crafted from stretched human faces, a belt made of female nipples, and many more creative items. However, his prominent invention was that of a suit that he made out of skin because he was trying to embody his dead mother. Yes, that was real.
Second to bat is Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez. Freddy Krueger and his iconic look have been haunting the dreams high schoolers since the 80s. Krueger latches onto a specific person and haunts them with constant horrific nightmares until they are driven to the point of madness. However, when he finally strikes it is bloody, gory, and glorious. Don’t get me wrong, I have cringed at some Krueger death scenes. Between the spine chilling screams and the sharpened claws and blood it can get pretty intense. Richard Ramirez terrorized the entire state of California from 1984-1985 with his night stalker killings. At first he only sexually assaulted and robbed women, but then he moved on to a more dangerous method that led to serial murder. He would stalk a couple and then proceed to break into their house and trash it and leave creepy voice messages on their answering machine. After these events he would intrude again, but hiding in the closet and waiting for the couple to turn in for the night. As soon as the couple would lie down he would emerge from the closet rape the woman at gunpoint and kill both people afterward. His killings became infamous at the Night Stalker murders and California was in a panic during his entire active year. Both of these men, real and fiction, terrorized their victims psychologically before deciding to end the torture by the means of murder. And honestly? I’ll take a dream nightmare over a man in my closet.
Next is Jigsaw from the Saw films and David Parker Ray, the Toy Box Killer. If you haven’t seen Saw and it’s annoying sequels, Jigsaw is a dying man that takes it upon himself to kidnap people, place them in a potentially fatal situation, and challenge their resolve so they can (hopefully) leave alive. Can you tell I hate this franchise? I am sorry, trying to blow the audience’s minds by making stupid pointless twists and comically dumb death scenes does not work for me! Ok, I am done. Jigsaw’s complement David Parker Ray is the most twisted killer on this list not only for his crimes, but the fact that he actually let some of the women he victimized live. Their memory would be impaired forever and some never fully remembered what he did to them, so they would live the rest of their life wondering exactly what happened. Ray, alongside his girlfriend, would drug and kidnap women from the local bar. These victims would then wake up in the ‘toy box’, Ray’s trailer he kept for his sex slaves. The trailer was lined with medieval-esque devices that made whips and chains look like down pillows, but what was really scary was that the women would wake up after being drugged to the sound of a recording. Ray’s voice would boom throughout the trailer while the victims slowly realized they were chained and shackled to a doctor’s chair as they listened to a recording that told them exactly what was about to happen. There are more graphic details, but you get the picture. At least with Jigsaw you were probably going to die in 10 minutes rather than contemplate your mortality for weeks on end.
The old adage that fact is stranger than fiction pervades in this subject matter greatly and it is unfortunate that our horror cannot just live on the silver screen.