Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Serial Killers

Banned Nike Slasher Commercial

The famous Nike commercial that was banned because of the use of a horror movie slasher chasing a would be female victim!

Henry Lee Lucas

Henry Lee Lucas (August 23, 1936 – March 13, 2001) was an American criminal, convicted of murder in 11 different cases and once listed as America’s most prolific serial killer.

Lucas was born in a one-room log cabin in Blacksburg, Virginia, the youngest of nine children. His mother, Viola Dixon Waugh, was an alcoholic prostitute. His father, Anderson Lucas, was an alcoholic and former railroad employee who had lost his legs after being hit by a freight train. He would usually come home inebriated, and would suffer from Viola’s wrath as often as his sons.

When Lucas was 10, his brother accidentally stabbed him in the left eye while they were fighting. His mother ignored the injury for four days, and subsequently the eye grew infected and had to be replaced by a glass eye.

Henry dropped out of school in the sixth grade and ran away from home, drifting around Virginia. Lucas claimed that he first practiced bestiality and zoosadism while he was a runaway, and also began committing petty thefts and burglaries around the state. Lucas claimed to have committed his first murder in 1951, when he strangled 17-year-old Laura Burnsley, who refused his sexual advances. As with most of his confessions, he later retracted this claim. On June 10, 1954, Lucas was convicted on over a dozen counts of burglary in and around Richmond, Virginia, and was sentenced to four years in prison. He escaped in 1957, was recaptured three days later, and was released on September 2, 1959.

On January 11, 1960, in Tecumseh, Michigan, Lucas killed his mother during the course of an ongoing argument regarding whether or not he should return home to his mother’s house to care for her as she grew older. He claimed she struck him over the head with a broom, at which point he struck her on the neck and she fell. Lucas then fled the scene. Lucas claimed to have attacked his mother only in self-defense, but his claim was rejected, and he was sentenced to between 20 and 40 years’ imprisonment in Michigan for second-degree murder. After serving 10 years in prison, he was released in June 1970 due to prison overcrowding.

Lucas drifted around the American South, ending up in Florida where he made the acquaintance of Ottis Toole in 1976 and had a sexual relationship with Toole’s 12-year-old niece, Frieda Powell, who had escaped from a juvenile detention facility. Lucas and Toole both called Powell “Becky,” partly to disguise her identity and because Powell preferred it over her given name. In 1978, Lucas and Toole formed what has been called a “homosexual crime team” and embarked on a cross-country murder spree. Lucas would later claim that during this period he had killed hundreds of people, with Toole assisting him in 108 murders.

Lucas later recanted his confessions, and flatly stated “I am not a serial killer” in a letter to researcher Brad Shellady. Lucas confessed to involvement in about 600 murders, but a more widely circulated total of about 350 murders committed by Lucas is based on confessions deemed “believable” by a Texas-based Lucas Task Force, a group which was later criticized by then-Attorney General of Texas, Jim Mattox, and others for sloppy police work and taking part in an extended “hoax”.

Beyond his recantation, some of Lucas’ confessions have been challenged as inaccurate by a number of critics, including law enforcement and court officials. Lucas claimed to have been initially subjected to poor treatment and coercive interrogation tactics while in police custody, and to have confessed to murders in an effort to improve his living conditions. Amnesty International reported “the belief of two former state Attorneys General that Lucas was in all likelihood innocent of the crime for which he was sentenced to death”.

Lucas’s sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1998 by then-Governor George W. Bush. It was the first successful commutation of a death sentence in Texas since the re-institution of the death penalty in Texas in 1982. Lucas died in prison of natural causes. Lucas still maintains a reputation, in the words of author Sarah L. Knox, “as one of the world’s worst serial killers—even after the debunking of the majority of his confessions by the Attorney General of Texas”.

The sordid life of Lucas inspired Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, a 1986 psychological thriller (released in 1990) directed and co-written by John McNaughton about the random crime spree of a serial killer who seemingly operates with impunity. It starred Michael Rooker as the nomadic killer Henry, Tom Towles as Otis, a prison buddy with whom Henry is living, and Tracy Arnold as Becky, Otis’ sister. The character of Henry is loosely based on Henry Lee Lucas.

Whitechapel Murders – Jack the Ripper

The Whitechapel murders were committed in or near the impoverished Whitechapel District in the East End of London between 3 April 1888 and 13 February 1891. Eleven women were killed; the crimes remain unsolved. At various points some or all of the killings have been ascribed to the notorious, unidentified serial killer known as Jack the Ripper.

Most, if not all, of the victims – Emma Elizabeth Smith, Martha Tabram, Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, Mary Jane Kelly, Rose Mylett, Alice McKenzie, Frances Coles, and an unidentified woman—were prostitutes. Smith was sexually assaulted and robbed by a gang. Tabram was stabbed 39 times. Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes, Kelly, McKenzie and Coles had their throats cut. Eddowes and Stride were killed on the same night, minutes and less than a mile apart; their murders were nicknamed the “double event”, after a phrase in a postcard sent to the press by someone claiming to be the Ripper. The bodies of Nichols, Chapman, Eddowes and Kelly suffered abdominal mutilations. Mylett was strangled. The body of the unidentified woman was dismembered, but the exact cause of her death is unclear.

The Metropolitan Police Force, City of London Police, and private organisations such as the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee were involved in the search for the killer or killers. Despite extensive inquiries and several arrests, the culprit or culprits evaded identification and capture. The murders drew attention to the poor living conditions in the East End slums, which were subsequently improved. The enduring mystery of who committed the crimes has captured the public imagination to the present day.

Charles Manson

Charles Milles Manson (born November 12, 1934) is an American criminal who led what became known as the Manson Family, a quasi-commune that arose in California in the late 1960s. He was found guilty of conspiracy to commit the Tate/LaBianca murders carried out by members of the group at his instruction. He was convicted of the murders through the joint-responsibility rule, which makes each member of a conspiracy guilty of crimes his fellow conspirators commit in furtherance of the conspiracy’s object.

Manson believed in what he called “Helter Skelter,” a term he took from the song of the same name by The Beatles. Manson believed Helter Skelter to be an impending apocalyptic race war, which he described in his own version of the lyrics to the Beatles’ song. He believed his murders would help precipitate that war. From the beginning of his notoriety, a pop culture arose around him in which he ultimately became an emblem of insanity, violence and the macabre. The term was later used by Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi as the title of a book he wrote about the Manson murders.

At the time the Family began to form, Manson was an unemployed ex-convict, who had spent half of his life in correctional institutions for a variety of offenses. Before the murders, he was a singer-songwriter on the fringe of the Los Angeles music industry, chiefly through a chance association with Dennis Wilson, founding member and drummer of The Beach Boys. After Manson was charged with the crimes he was later convicted of, recordings of songs written and performed by him were released commercially. Artists, including Guns ‘N’ Roses, White Zombie and Marilyn Manson, have covered his crap songs.

On March 29, 1971, a Los Angeles, California jury recommended the death penalty for Manson and three female followers. Manson’s death sentence was automatically commuted to life imprisonment when a 1972 decision by the Supreme Court of California temporarily eliminated the state’s death penalty. California’s eventual reinstatement of capital punishment did not affect Manson, who is currently incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison.

John McNaughton

John McNaughton (born January 13, 1950) is an American film and television director, originally from Chicago, Illinois. He studied fine arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and graduated from Columbia College of Chicago with a degree in television production and a minor in photography.

His first feature film, made in 1986, was ‘Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer’, a film that McNaughton directed, co-wrote, and co-produced. Due to complications with the subject matter, the film wasn’t released until 1990.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is about the random crime spree of a serial killer who seemingly operates with impunity. Staring Michael Rooker as the nomadic killer Henry, Tom Knowles as Otis, a prison buddy with whom Henry is living, and Tracy Arnold as Becky, Otis’ sister. McNaughton was originally contracted to make a horror film about aliens, however, knowing that with the budget he was to be working, there would be no way he could make what the producers wanted, he found himself stumped for a subject matter until he saw an episode of 20/20 about the serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. It was then that McNaughton decided the subject for the film would be a flesh and blood human being.

In prison, Henry Lee Lucas confessed to over 600 murders, claiming he committed roughly one murder a week between his release from prison in 1975 to his arrest in 1983. While the film was inspired by Lucas’ confessions, the vast majority of his claims turned out to be false. A detailed investigation by the Texas Attorney General’s office was able to rule out Lucas as a suspect in most of his confessions by comparing his known whereabouts to the dates of the murders he confessed to. Lucas was convicted of 11 murders, but law enforcement officers and other investigators have overwhelmingly rejected his claims of having killed hundreds of victims. The “Lucas Report” asserted that reliable physical evidence linked Lucas to three murders. Others familiar with the case have suggested that Lucas committed a low of two murders to — at the most — about 40 killings. The hundreds of confessions stemmed from the fact that Lucas was confessing to almost every unsolved murder brought before him, often with the collusion of police officers who wanted to clear their files of unsolved and “cold cases.” Lucas reported that the false confessions ensured better conditions for him, as law enforcement officers would offer him incentives to confess to crimes he did not commit. Such confessions also increased his fame with the public. In the end, Lucas was convicted of 11 murders andsentenced to death for the murder of an unidentified female victim known only as “Orange Socks”. His death sentence was later commuted to life in prison by the then Governer of Texas, George W. Bush in 1998. Lucas died in prison of heart failure on March 13, 2001.

The character of Henry shares many biographical concurrences with Lucas himself. However, as the opening statement makes clear, the film is based more on Lucas’ violent fantasies and confessions rather than the crimes he was convicted of. Similarities between real life and the film include:

  • Henry Lee Lucas became acquainted with a drifter and male prostitute named Otis Toole, whom he had met in a soup kitchen in Jacksonville, Florida. In the film, the character’s name is “Otis” and the two met in prison.
  • Henry Lee Lucas became the lover of Toole’s 12-year-old niece, Frieda Powell, who lived with Lucas and her uncle for many years. As in the film, Frieda Powell preferred to be addressed as “Becky” rather than her given name. However, in the film Becky is Otis’ younger sister and is considerably older than the 12-year-old Frieda Powell.
  • As in the film, Lucas’ mother was a violent prostitute who often forced him to watch her while she had sex with clients. The mother sometimes would make him wear girl’s clothing and dresses. Lucas’ father lost both his legs after being struck by a freight train; the character relates a similar story.

The filmwas shot on 16mm in less than a month with a budget of only$110,000… as a result the grainy look gives the film a documentary feel.

Numerous complications plagued the controversial film, delaying its theatrical release until 1989.The film made Time magazine’s and Roger Ebert’s ten best lists and won best picture honors at Fantasporto and the Brussels International Festival of fantasy Film. 

McNaughton’s other films include ‘Mad Dod and Glory’ and ‘Wild Things’, the documentary Condo Painting as well as episodes of ‘Homocide: Life on the Street’, ‘John From Cincinnati’, ‘Masters of Horror, and the pilot episode for ‘Push, Nevada’.

Ted Bundy

Theodore RobertTedBundy (born Theodore Robert Cowell; November 24, 1946 – January 24, 1989) was an American serial killer, rapist, kidnapper, and necrophile who assaulted and murdered numerous young women during the 1970s, and possibly earlier. After more than a decade of denials, he confessed shortly before his execution to 30 homicides committed in seven states between 1974 and 1978; the true total remains unknown, and could be much higher.

Bundy was handsome and charismatic, traits he exploited in winning the confidence of his young, attractive female victims. He typically approached them in public places and feigned injury or disability, or impersonated an authority figure, before overpowering and assaulting them at a more secluded location. He sometimes revisited his secondary crime scenes for hours at a time, grooming and performing sexual acts with the decomposing corpses until putrefaction and destruction by wild animals made further interaction impossible. He decapitated at least four victims and kept the severed heads in his apartment for a period of time as mementos. On a few occasions he simply broke into dwellings in the dead of night and bludgeoned victims as they slept.

Initially charged in Utah in 1975 and convicted of aggravated kidnapping and attempted criminal assault, Bundy became linked to a progressively longer list of unsolved homicides in multiple states. Facing murder charges in Colorado, he engineered two dramatic escapes, and committed at least three additional murders and several violent assaults in Florida before his ultimate recapture in 1978. He received three death sentences in two separate trials for the three known Florida homicides.

Ted Bundy died in the electric chair at Raiford Prison in Starke, Florida, in January 1989. Biographer Ann Rule described him as “…a sadistic sociopath who took pleasure from another human’s pain and the control he had over his victims, to the point of death, and even after.” He once called himself “…the most cold-hearted son of a bitch you’ll ever meet.” Attorney Polly Nelson, a member of his last defense team, agreed. “Ted,” she wrote, “was the very definition of heartless evil.”

There have been a few movies about Bundy, ‘The Stranger Beside Me’ (2003), ‘Ted Bundy’ (2002), ‘Bundy: A Legacy of Evil’ (2008), and ‘The Deliberate Stranger’ (1986), which is the best of the ones mentioned. No doubt there’s more but I’m not that interested.

Ed Gein

Edward Theodore “Ed” Gein (August 27, 1906– July 26, 1984) was an American murderer. His crimes, which he committed around his hometown of Plainfield, Wisconsin, garnered widespread notoriety after authorities discovered Gein had exhumed corpses from local graveyards and fashioned trophies and keepsakes from their bones and skin.

After police found body parts in his house in 1957, Gein confessed to killing two women: tavern owner Mary Hogan in 1954, and a Plainfield hardware store owner, Bernice Worden, in 1957. Initially found unfit to stand trial, following confinement in a mental health facility, he was tried in 1968 for the murder of Worden and sentenced to life imprisonment, which he spent in a mental hospitals, the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane and Mendota State Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. The body of Bernice Worden was found in Gein’s shed; her head and the head of Mary Hogan were found inside his house. Robert H. Gollmar, the judge in the Gein case, wrote: “Due to prohibitive costs, Gein was tried for only one murder — that of Mrs. Worden.”

With fewer than three murders attributed, Gein does not meet the traditional definition of a serial killer. However it is the insane collection of human body parts that has given rise to the Ed Geinmythology. Searching the house, authorities found:

  • Four noses
  • Whole human bones and fragments
  • Nine masks of human skin
  • Bowls made from human skulls
  • Ten female heads with the tops sawn off
  • Human skin covering several chair seats
  • Mary Hogan’s head in a paper bag
  • Bernice Worden’s head in a burlap sack
  • Nine vulvas in a shoe box
  • A belt made from human female nipples
  • Skulls on his bedposts
  • Organs in the refrigerator
  • A pair of lips on a draw string for a windowshade
  • A lampshade made from the skin from a human face

These artifacts were photographed at the crime lab and then were properly destroyed.

Regardless, according to the creators Robert Bloch, Tobe Hooper and Thomas Harris, his real-life case influenced the creation of fictional serial killers Norman Bates from ‘Psycho’, Leatherface from ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, and Jame Gumb from ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. 

The story of Ed Gein has had a lasting impact on western popular culture as evidenced by its numerous appearances in movies, music and literature. Apart from influencing 3 of the horror genres most iconic movies, Gein’s story was adapted into a number of movies, including ‘Deranged’ (1974), ‘In the Light of the Moon’ (2000) released in the U.S. as ‘Ed Gein’ (2001), and ‘Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield’ (2007). Deranged is disturbingly creepy, the others, as is usual with this fare, are awful. A biographical musical titled ‘Ed Gein: the Musical’ premiered on January 2, 2010 in Menasha, Wisconsin. Haven’t seen it…

On July 26, 1984, Gein died of respiratory and heart failure due to cancer in Stovall Hall at the Mendota Mental Health Institute. His grave site in the Plainfield cemetery was frequently vandalized over the years; souvenir seekers chipped off pieces of his gravestone before the bulk of it was stolen in 2000. The gravestone was recovered in June 2001 near Seattle and is now in a museum in Waushara County. Rot in Hell.

John Wayne Gacy

John Wayne Gacy was finally executed on the 10th May 1994 after spending 14 years on death row. A notorious serial killer who killed 33 victims over a six-year period, he was killed by lethal injection just after midnight. There were apparently over one thousand people gathered outside the correctional centre, the majority of who were in favour of his execution. A diagnosed psychopath, he expressed no remorse for his crimes stating to his lawyer that killing him wouldn’t bring any of the victims back and he deserves no sympathy even in death. The prosecutor at his trial, William Kunkle said: “He still got a much easier death than any of his victims. In my opinion he got an easier death than he deserved, but the important thing is that he paid for his crimes with his life” So far there have been four movies made about Gacy; unfortunately I’ve seen two of them…

To Catch A Killer (1992) starring Brian Dennehy, was the first movie made about Gacy. A made for television movie, it uses most of the 3 hour+ running time to focus mainly on the Police investigation into what became known as the ‘Gacy murders’ this unfortunately does the movie no favours. The strength of the movie is Brian Dennehy, he is outstanding as Gacy and whenever he’s not on screen the movie falters; he was nominated for an Emmy for his efforts. The rest of the cast are okay, especially Michael Riley who is pretty good as Lieutenant Joe Kozenczak.

Gacy (2003) starring Mark Holton as Gacy is a low budget movie that looks like a low budget movie. This time around we see flashbacks to his childhood where he takes a beating from his father (back story… ooh). This movie focuses more on Gacy than its predecessor but is not handled very well at all. It’s not all bad; it’s just not even partly good.

Apparently there are another two movies about Gacy that came out last year, one called ‘Dear Mr Gacy’ that tells the story of Gacy’s prison correspondence with Jason Moss. William Forsythe played Gacy and as I always find him interesting I may give that movie a look.

I can’t say the same about the other movie released last year, it’s called ‘8213: Gacy House’ and is allegedly about a team of paranormal investigators who base themselves in the house built on the former site of Gacy’s home. There’s a version of it on DVD called ‘Paranormal Investigations: Gacy House’ which has a cover that looks suspiciously like the Paranormal Activity poster. It sounds bloody awful… as does ‘Dahmer vs Gacy’ an alleged slasher comedy which is on the way.

There seems to be a revival of the obsession with serial killers again, Hollywood must be desperate for ideas. As usual the cheap knock-offs offer little in comparison to the quality output by Hitchcock or movies such as ’10 Rillington Place’, ‘Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer’, ‘Silence of the Lambs’, ‘Se7en’ or ‘Zodiac’. A top 10 good quality serial killer movie list will appear soon.

Bundy-A Legacy of Evil *

The movie opens with Ted killing someone then jumps forward to him in his cell awaiting the chair. A news reporter outside the jail tries to explain who Ted Bundy really is: “you’ve gotta go back a few years to really understand who he was”… Erm, okay… Cue flashback…

Oh dear, I think they’re trying to give us a back story or, God forbid, an understanding as to why little Ted grew up to be big bad Ted. We start with little Ted reading gruesome comic books intercut with him scouring black circles repeatedly with thick crayon; all this happening with his broken home family bickering in the background. Rubbish.

Jump forward to 1966, teenage Ted is studying law at Wisconsin University with his older girlfriend, Stephanie, their relationship is a ‘secret’… through some lame montage and awful music we see them have some ups and downs until Ted ejaculates in his pants and misses a dinner date with her parents (they are unconnected events!). Stephanie dumps him and Ted doesn’t take it too well… “You’re immature she tells him”

Ted reads his family history at the public records office… the file is stamped: ‘Illegitimate’ Ted doesn’t take that too well either.

Cue Bad Ted, killing someone in the desert. To the movie’s credit the killing is not played for gratuitous kicks, it is brutal and bleak, we never see the blows land and the scene is played without music and all the more disturbing for it. We feel for the victim.

In 1971 Ted has job as a counsellor at the Seattle Crisis Centre. He has a ‘gift’ to talk to the callers says one of his co-workers. Of course he does, he’s far more fucked in the head than any of his depressed callers, their issues are nothing compared to what’s going through his demented mind.

Another montage with another lame song, this time though we see bad Ted  kidnap and kill his next few victims, Ted is getting better at it… the director isn’t.

1973. Ted is working for Senator Ross Davis in Washington State. If you think about it, Ted’s perfect for politics, a missed opportunity there perhaps. Ted then meets up with Stephanie in San Francisco, cue another lame song montage. Ted proposes to her over dinner, she’s so happy; obviously Ted doesn’t mess up his trousers anymore. Ted excuses himself to go to the bathroom and doesn’t return. We then have to watch the longest time lapse scene EVER watching Stephanie wait for him… For a movie based on the life of one of Americas most prolific, notorious and allegedly charming serial killers you’d think there were more interesting scenes to show… This is followed by yet another lame song montage of Ted driving around the desert. I can handle the scenes of violence but these songs would drive anyone to murder.

Anyway, Ted falls asleep in his car, is hassled by the ‘man’ and arrested… for the first time. He escapes through the air vents.

Jump forward to 1978, Ted loses it big time and kills two girls in their dorm beds. On his way home Ted kills again.

Cut to Ted speaking to some reporters outside a courtroom; he’s been charged with the 1978 dorm murders and is going to be representing himself in court… Ted’s such a good lawyer that he’s sentenced to death in the electric chair.

In his cell the Warden tells him: “You’re whiny and immature Ted” Ooh, full circle ‘n’ shit…

Directed by Michael Feifer, the film looks and generally feels like what it is, a cheap exploitation movie. Corin Nemec is not at all believable, Bundy was supposed to be intelligent and charming. If he was anything like he’s portrayed here he’d have been arrested a lot earlier. Kane Hodder as the Warden is okay but should stick to wearing a hockey mask.

If you want a well told Bundy story, look out for TV movie ‘The Deliberate Stranger’ (1986) starring Mark Harmon, yes that Mark Harmon from NCIS, I know he’s a terrible actor but he’s DeNiro when compared to Corin Memic. That movie doesn’t treat us like idiots and is very good.

You should also buy the Nothing’s Shocking CD by Janes Addiction and listen to the track: ‘Ted, Just Admit It’ because it”s excellent.

Quality of Film: 1 out of 5 stars

Is it any good: 1 out of 5 stars