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There’s no limit to how maniacal murderers can get in movies. They dress up like their dead mother and butcher a woman while she’s showering. They release victims in the middle of nowhere and hunt them like prey. They slaughter a child for kicks. It’s enough to make you toss your popcorn.
It’s doubly disturbing because these characters aren’t totally the product of screenwriters’ vivid imaginations. They’re often based in part on actual deranged murderers — not unlike ones at the center of “Twisted Killers,” premiering Thursday, January 6 at 9/8c on Oxygen. The series explore some of the most deranged murderers and how they were brought to justice.
Before the show launches, let’s review some of the most twisted movie killers and how they went from real to reel.
Notoriously known as the Gainesville Ripper, Danny Rolling terrorized a Florida college campus in a three-day killing spree in the summer of 1990. The murderer actually helped inspire the iconic villain in the Ghostface mask in "Scream." The masked movie slasher bears only a faint resemblance, but the roots are there.
“The Frozen Ground,” 2013
Born in 1939 in Iowa, serial killer Robert Hansen admitted to raping 30 women in the 1970s and ’80s. He killed 17 of those women, many of whom he released into the Alaskan wilderness areas before hunting them like animals. The movie sticks to the facts fairly faithfully. John Cusack is the killer who’s brought down by a sex worker who escapes his clutches, played by Vanessa Hudgens.
“Psycho,” 1960, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” 1974, “The Silence of the Lambs,” 1991
Norman Bates, the homicidal innkeeper with a sick obsession with his dead mother seen in director Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic, made showering truly scary stuff. Bates was loosely inspired by Ed Gein, an infamous Wisconsin killer and grave robber and body snatcher. Leatherface from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and Jame Gumb, who kept victims in a pit before killing and skinning them in “The Silence of the Lambs,” are among other movie killers seizing inspiration from Gein’s gruesome exploits.
Between December 1957 and January 1958, 19-year-old Charles Starkweather killed 11 people in a bloody spree through Nebraska and Wyoming. Along for the homicidal ride was his 14-year-old girlfriend whose mother, stepfather, and toddler sister were among the murder victims. He was sentenced to death and executed in 1959, she got 17 years behind bars.
Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek played the killer couple, called Kit Carruthers and Holly, in the Terrence Malick film "Badlands."
“The Clovehitch Killer,” 2018
Dennis Rader lived a double life as a family man and a savage serial killer who terrorized Kansas between 1974 and 1991. During that time he strangled 10 victims, killing both men and women, adults and children. He nicknamed himself BTK, a nod to his “M.O.,” which he described as “Bind them, torture them, kill them” in a 1974 letter to the Wichita Eagle.
While the movie doesn’t recreate Rader’s slayings there are overlaps, including how the killer played by Dylan McDermott is a loving Kentucky family man who’s secretly killed more than a dozen women. The screenwriter told an interviewer that Rader, aka BTK, was “definitely someone we researched carefully.”
“Wolf Creek,” 2005
Serial killer Ivan Milat was notoriously known as the Backpack Murderer. He was convicted of killing seven backpackers in a way designed to maximize suffering. He’d initially incapacitate them and tease them with the hope of escape before killing them. The Australian flick seizing inspiration from the ghoulish doings renames the killer but keeps the brutality intact.
“Citizen X,” 1995
In the 1970s and ’80s, Andrei Chikatilo was a Russian family man with a secret sinister side and a nefarious nickname, the Butcher of Rostov. He confessed to raping, killing, and cannibalizing boys, girls and young women, according to the AP.
“8 Years. 52 Victims. 1 Killer … Based on a True Story.” That’s how the movie starring Jeffrey DeMunn as the killer promoted the shocking tale.
“10 Rillington Place,” 1971
English serial killer John Christie spent the 1940s and ’50s drugging and strangling eight people, including his wife, at his home in Notting Hill. He disposed of bodies behind walls, under floorboards, and in the garden. He was convicted and hanged in 1953. The 50-year-old movie starred Richard Attenborough as the twisted killer.
To learn more about shocking true crimes, watch “Twisted Killers,” premiering January 6 at 9/8c on Oxygen.
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