The Frozen Ground (and 10 other great films about serial killers)
A directorial debut for Scott Walker, The Frozen Ground sees its UK release on DVD and Blu-Ray next week and is based on the true story of serial killer Robert Hansen. Starring Nicholas Cage as Alaska state trooper Jack Halcombe (based on real-life detective Glenn Flothe), who is called in to investigate the murders of several young women in Anchorage, Alaska.
Halcombe becomes convinced that Hansen (John Cusack) is the killer, but he needs proof. He discovers that one of the would-be victims, a stripper named Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens), managed to escape the killer’s clutches and he sets about tracking her down, but she is less than cooperative. At the time of the incident, she refused to take a polygraph test and her history of drug abuse led police to believe she was an unreliable witness.
Hansen is considered an upstanding community member, but Halcombe smells a rat. He knows if he is to find the proof he needs he must gain Cindy’s trust, but the bodies are still piling up and time is running out.
The film, which also stars Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris as Sergeant Lyle Haugsven, is a chilling account of policing failures in the investigation of one of America’s most prolific serial killers: Hansen was eventually convicted of 17 murders – but may have been responsible for as many as 30 - and is serving a prison sentence of 461 years. Even though this is Walker’s first stint in the director’s chair for a feature film, it’s an absorbing adaptation of a grisly story, with some great performances to boot.
If you enjoy crime dramas, The Frozen Ground is definitely worth a look. To get you in the mood, why not check out these other serial killer flicks?
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as newspaper cartoonist Robert Graysmith who becomes obsessed with trying to solve the case of the ‘Zodiac Killer’ responsible for a series of murders in San Francisco in the 1970s. Graysmith becomes involved after his colleague, journalist Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.), spends years investigating the case for the newspaper. Graysmith chases clues around the various involved police departments while Avery slides into a drink-fuelled depression. A taut thriller with some great performances, particularly from Downey Jr.
Yet another film based on a true story, this made-for-TV movie stars Stephen Rea as Russian detective Viktor Burikov and charts his attempts to catch a serial killer who has been operating for years, preying on victims who are usually underage girls. His struggle is set against the backdrop of communist Russia in the 1970s and a regime that is not only desperately under-investing in its crime prevention methods, but also refuses to accept that there are any serial killers in Russia, dismissing the idea as ‘western phenomena’. Frustrating and utterly absorbing, the film also stars Donald Sutherland as Russian colonel Mikhail Fetisov, the only sympathetic voice in the regime’s ranks.
The Silence of the Lambs
This classic starring Anthony Hopkins needs no introduction, but as serial killer flicks go it’s one of the best. Hopkins’ disturbed genius Hannibal Lecter assists special agent Clerise Starling (Jodie Foster) in catching a killer named Buffalo Bill, a murderous transvestite who is harvesting the skin of his victims to make himself a nice new lady suit. Horrifying, but absolutely compelling.
This 1995 film from director Jon Amiel stars Sigourney Weaver as agoraphobic psychologist Helen Hudson, who specialises in the psychology of serial killers. She is brought in to investigate the case of Peter Foley, a copycat killer who meticulously reconstructs the scenes of murders by more famous as part of his own diabolical acts, hoping to achieve notoriety himself.
Mary Harron’s 2000 film stars Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, a Wall Street banker with a psychotic alter-ego who leads a double life as a murderer who kills for no apparent reason other than his growing hatred of the world around him. A well-established classic that features some iconic scenes, including the sequence featuring Bateman dressed in plastic sheeting wielding an axe. You’ll never listen to Huey Lewis & The News the same way again.
Featuring a career-defining performance from Charlize Theron, this film tells the true and utterly disturbing story of America’s first female serial killer, Aileen Wuornos. Working as a prostitute along the Daytona Beach highways, she allows her victims to pick her up before murdering them and taking their money. Theron is mesmerising as the unhinged Wournos, a product of an abusive childhood who is as tragic as she is terrifying. Not to be missed.
Greg Mclean’s film tells the story of Ben, Liz and Kristy, three English tourists who rent a car to take a road trip across Australia. When their car breaks down in the middle of the outback, bush dweller and garage owner Mick Taylor picks them up and offers to fix their car, only to take them captive with the intent of killing them all. A gripping and tense thriller from writer & director Greg McLean that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt star as detectives attempting to foil the plan of a psychopathic mastermind John Doe (Kevin Spacey), who is in the middle of a killing spree based around the seven deadly sins. The two detectives must figure out his plan before it reaches its ready climax. The film also features turns from Gwyneth Paltrow and Shaft legend Richard Roundtree.
Natural Born Killers
Co-produced by Quentin Tarantino, Oliver Stone’s 1994 film stars Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as Mickey and Mallory Knox, a married couple on a murderous rampage across America. Their exploits see them rise to something approaching celebrity status, with rolling news broadcasts following their killing spree. Sleazy journalist Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.) is determined to get their first exclusive interview, but it may cost him his life…
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Tom Tykwer’s adaptation of Patrick Suskind’s extraordinary novel stars Ben Whishaw as a young apprentice perfumier with an unusually highly developed sense of smell, whose quest to create the perfect scent leads him down a murderous path as he explores esoteric techniques for capturing the smell of young girls. The concept is extremely creepy, but the performances are fantastic and the cinematography is stunning. The film also boasts one of the most bizarre conclusions in cinema and if you haven’t seen the film already, don’t read anything about it before you watch. Highly recommended.