Film & TV
We all get a thrill watching a horror flick. And if things get too scary, we can tell ourselves that it’s just make-believe. That’s not true of these six movies based on the rampages of real serial killers. But at least we can comfort ourselves with the fact that these six are all now safely locked up—or dead.
Killer: Jeffrey Dahmer
Moniker: The Milwaukee Cannibal
Played by: Jeremy Renner
Body Count: 17
M.O.: Strangulation, Dismemberment, Necrophilia, Cannibalism
Today: Dead. Beaten to death by a fellow prisoner.
Jeffrey Dahmer was one of the most depraved serial killers of all time. He began his killing career just three weeks after graduating from high school. Handsome and charming, he lured young men back to his home where he generally drugged them, strangled them, had sex with them (sometimes after death), and dismembered them, saving and sometimes eating the remains.
2. The Snowtown Murders
Killer: John Bunting
Moniker: Bodies-in-Barrels Killer
Played by: Daniel Henshall
Body Count: 11
M.O.: Torture, Strangulation, Cannibalism
Today: In prison, serving 11 consecutive terms of life without parole.
John Bunting was the ringleader of a murderous gang that terrorized South Australia from 1992 to 1999. Like many other serial killers, he believed he was cleansing the world of undesirable or weak people. Some of his victims were discovered dismembered in barrels of acid, giving the killer his nickname.
3. Wolf Creek
Killer: Ivan Milat
Moniker: The Backpacker Killer
Played by: John Jarratt
Body Count: 7
M.O.: Left victims face down with their hands behind their backs.
Today: In prison, serving seven consecutive life sentences plus 18 years life without parole.
The killer is called Mick Taylor in the movie, but the story is based on Ivan Milat’s killing spree, which terrorized New South Wales, Australia from 1989 to 1993. Milat preyed on backpackers in the Australian outback, many of them foreign tourists. Some of his victims were decapitated.
4. True Story
Killer: Christian Longo
Played by: James Franco
Body Count: 4
M.O.: Strangulation, drowning
Today: On death row
Longo is a bit different from your average serial killer, since he kept his killing in the family. Longo killed his wife and three children, ages two, three, and four. Their bodies were found in the frigid waters Newport, Oregon. His wife and two-year-old were found stuffed into suitcases, the other two children with weighted pillowcases tied to their ankles. Longo fled to Mexico, where he assumed the identity of a New York Times reporter, Michael Finkel. Years later, in a strange twist, Finkel wrote that led to the movie. Longo is now also a writer, famously publishing from prison that appeared in the New York Times.
Killer: Aileen Wuornos
Played by: Charlize Theron
Body Count: 7
M.O.: Shooting at close range
Today: Dead, executed in 2002 by lethal injection.
Wuornos, the rare female serial killer, targeted men she claimed had raped her, or tried to. Abandoned by her mother, Wuornos began selling her body as a child for cigarettes and food. She was working as a prostitute in Florida during her killing spree. The glamorous Charlize Theron required extensive makeup to transform herself into the hard-used Wuornos.
6. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Killer: Henry Lee Lucas
Moniker: The Confession Killer
Played by: Michael Rooker
Body Count: Unknown. He confessed to 600 unsolved murders, but was probably lying about many.
Today: Dead. He died of a heart attack in prison. His death sentence was commuted to life in prison by Texas Governor George W. Bush.
Lucas’s first murder was probably his mother, a prostitute who reportedly made Lucas watch her work. There is strong evidence linking him to between two and ten more murders, but when he was in prison he began confessing to hundreds of unsolved cases. Most of those confessions turned out to be false. In the film, his victims are entirely random, including a good samaritan who stops to help Lucas fix his car.