Serial Killers at the Movies

My Intimate Talks with Mass Murderers who Became Stars of the Big Screen

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Pub Date 05 Feb 2021 | Archive Date 05 Feb 2021

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Description

The depraved crimes of both real and imagined serial killers and mass murderers have long transfixed us in newspapers and books, but perhaps nowhere more so than on the big screen. Films such as Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer have not only reached huge audiences, but also allowed us into the minds of society’s most disturbed individuals. Christopher Berry-Dee talks to the serial killers whose wicked stories have most thrilled and fascinated us at the movies and, through far-ranging and disturbing interviews, he tells the stories of the mass murderers who provided the inspiration for some of cinema’s most shocking films. Serial Killers at the Movies takes the reader on an uncomfortable and truly dark journey into a terrifying world of murder and deviancy.

The depraved crimes of both real and imagined serial killers and mass murderers have long transfixed us in newspapers and books, but perhaps nowhere more so than on the big screen. Films such as ...


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Featured Reviews

Thanks Netgalley for allowing me to read this book. This book delves into the serial killers that were in movies we liked so much such as psycho and silence of the lives. The book gave insight into the real serial killers who were depicted in the movies.

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I received an advance copy of, Serial Killers at the Movies by, Christopher Berry-Dee. This is a great book, especially for Halloween. The author interviewed serial killers. It a really interesting book, though gruesome and dark.

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In this book Christopher Berry-Dee tells stories of the murderers who inspired some of the scariest and shocking films. I love scary movies and found it really interesting to read about the inspiration behind some films and in some ways the real life murders are scariest of all... because they really happened! A brilliant read if you are interested in horror films or indeed in real life crime and murderers and want to know how the killers depicted movies you have watched are inspired by real and evil people. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy of the book in return for my honest feedback.

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Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Serial Killers at the Movies. I'm a fan of thrillers featuring fictionalized serial killers but this title intrigued me so I was excited when my request was approved. An ideal read for October! I'm not a fan of true crime though you have to be living on Mars under a rock not to recognize all of the famous serial killers the author mentions in his book. What I did appreciate in Serial Killers at the Movies is how the author gives you a brief recap of the killer's crime, a brief origin story and how the movies have interpreted it. Not surprisingly, the author finds movies exploiting the victims and barely based on facts as schlock and not worthy of viewing. He understands movies are (for the most part) for entertainment purposes but points out there's nothing wrong with devoting part of a movie budget to research and hiring professionals with experience in forensics and law enforcement as consultants. I do have to point out a mistake in Mr. Berry-Dee's recap of The Shawshank Redemption: he incorrectly names Heywood as the evil prison guard. Heywood was a fellow con (well acted by William Sadler), but the lead prison guard was played by Clancy Brown (well cast here, too). Serial Killers at the Movies is not a lighthearted read and it isn't for everyone. But, if you enjoy thrilling movies and/or books featuring serial killers or consider yourself an armchair detective, definitely give Serial Killers at the Movies a read. I guarantee you'll learn something!

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Serial killers are undoubtably fascinating, in fiction and in real life. Watching them in a movie lets the audience experience the thrill of encountering them in safety, when you know that you can’t possibly become their victim. Meeting them in real life, like Christopher Berry-Dee has done, must be scary and disturbing. How can someone do such things? Where do they get their ideas and fixations? The author explores those motivations, comparing them with their counterparts on the silver screen. Many times, reality is even worse than fiction. As a horror fan, I’ve read and watched many works of fiction about serial killers and I’ve never been squeamish, but this book really got to me. The atrocities here are real, so it takes a certain detachment to read about them. The author knows his movies, and his point of view is more knowledgeable than a casual fan. He has met the real people so his analysis of the characters on film is very complete. Fans of true crime will also find a wealth of material that Berry-Dee references. Movie lovers will want to re-watch some of the films discussed, even if it may be more disturbing. I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, NetGalley/ Ad Lib Publishers!

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First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Christopher Berry-Dee, and Ad Lib Publishers for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review. There’s something about the chills that race down the spine when speaking about serial killers. While their actions may leave some feeling a tad ill, there’s that pull towards knowing more, at least for many of the people I know. Christopher Berry-Dee, an investigative criminologist who has spent a number of years studying and writing about serial killers, takes that knowledge to pen a book exploring how well serial killers are depicted on the big screen. Packed full of information and references, those who love the world of serial killers and true crime may want to give this tome a gander. Berry-Dee pulls not punches throughout the book, making it clear to the reader that not all serial killer movies get it right. By that, he means that some are complete flops in their delivery, while others seem quite outlandish or poorly depict the killers they are supposed to represent. This is a problem for true fans of the genre, as a great serial killer is one who is not only a master at their crimes, but who can scare the reader/viewer with ease. In his study, Berry-Dee explores some of the big screen’s best-known killers and tries to hash out some of the real life influences that may have led to their depiction. Few can fault the emergence of Hannibal Lector or Norman Bates, though there is more to them than the creative minds of the authors who put them in a book. They were an amalgam of some great killers over time, though rarely can a literary or cinematic killer be attributed to a single person, sometimes for legal reasons. Berry-Dee draws some wonderful parallels and invites the reader to sit back as he presents what knowledge he has on the subject. There are some great interpretations of notorious serial killers who make it directly onto the big screen, including the Zodiac Killer and the antagonist from Se7en. These killers emerge as both creepy and downright geniuses, leaving the reader to wonder where the writers came up with such a great idea. The former was, surely, a killer of some regard in the 1960s and 70s, though they have never been formally named or caught. There is a significant psychological aspect required to pull the viewer in, rather than a great deal of gore and death. Berry-Dee is also first to point out the poorly devised cinematic presentations when it comes to serial killers, those who were either shortchanged when their stories made it to the screen or a delivery of their crimes was somehow lost in translation. Berry-Dee models himself as quite the critic and can see a dud a mile away, choosing to point these out repeatedly for the reader. While Ted Buddy and John Wayne Gacy were chilling killers of the 1970s, when someone chose to depict their kills for a viewing audience, it was either too cheesy or simply a boring rendition, which lessens the impact and keeps the reader from feeling what really happened. Christopher Berry-Dee surely knows what he’s writing in this piece, taking the time to extract the truths or tie-in some of the research that he was able to complete. There is a strong narrative in the opening few chapters, as he tackles some of the best known serial killer movies (series, actually). He builds up the discussion of both the film and the true events, drawing the needed parallels for the reader to digest, then leaves it for some quiet contemplation before moving along to the next topic of discussion. This is helpful, particularly those of us who are not fanatics, but simply fans of the dark and macabre world of serial killers. The book began with some great chapter lengths and discussions, though this petered off, as I will mention below. With lots of outside references, the curious reader can surely find more to whet their sadistic appetites, which is always helpful. If I had to offer a critique the book, it would surely be that Berry-Dee seeks to pack too much into the tome, offering as many killers as he can, rather than going into great detail with a handful. By the middle o the book, he offers an ‘intermission’ section, where some editorializing can occur. Thereafter, it seems to be a rush of movies and short commentaries as the book must fill a quota of pages. I would much rather have felt an impactful collection of strong movies with thorough analysis, rather than a few pages here and there of some films who have either made it or fell short. Kudos, Mr. Berry-Dee, for this interesting look at the world of serial killers on the big screen. You reference some of your other work regularly, which I will have to explore, when time permits.

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Luridly Fascinating..... Armchair detectives and movie buff detectives may be drawn to this fact packed collection. It’s a grisly work for sure, however, but an educated one as the author painstakingly recounts disturbing and alarming interviews with serial killers, the dreadful acts of whom have inspired or have been translated into film. Watching or rewatching those movies referenced, indeed, may never be the same again. Uncomfortable but luridly fascinating.

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This book was fascinating and kind of scary at the same time. If you enjoy true crime books, or reading about serial killers, you will enjoy this book. Thanks to Netgalley, the author and the publisher for the arc of this book in return for my review. Receiving the book in this manner had no bearing on this review.

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A highly entertaining read about the films that have shaped our view of serial killers in popular culture and the real life criminals that influenced their fictional counterparts. Once I got past the disturbingly long intro, which asked the same questions about thirty times, I was immersed in the world of true crime and the thriller film. This book asks the age old questions; why do serial killers commit such heinous crimes and why are we so fascinated by their murderous antics? It's clear that people will never stop making movies about true cases as long as there is a hunger for them. Recommended for fans of true crime and thriller movie trivia. **Thanks to Ad Lib Publishers and Netgalley for providing my digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

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I'm a bit torn on this one. 3.5 stars I think is what I'd give it. It started out REALLY strong -- I mean, you can't go wrong with Silence of the Lambs. And the Amityville Horror chapter was super interesting too. However, as the book continued, I found myself getting bored. It felt like the author started name dropping just to give himself credibility, but the credibility had already been established. Plus, half the time the names he dropped really didn't add a lot to the chapter. He also often referenced his other book, but then left it at that, making me feel like I should have been reading the other book rather than this one. I also felt that as the book went on, the chapters started to become about real life cases that were sort of related rather than what the movie was based off of. Part of the draw of this book for me was that I was going to learn a lot about how real life cases inspired movies, but I ended up not feeling that way at the ended. Overall, I have respect for the author and love his stance that a movie is only good if it is based in fact without exploiting the victims just to make a quick buck. However, this book was a bit of a miss for me, and definitely a let down. There were parts I really enjoyed, but parts that I really didn't. I rounded up a bit because the author referenced how great Dean Koontz was, and he's my favorite author so that pulled my heart strings. ;) Thank you so much to Christopher Berry-Dee, Ad Lib Publishers, and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free, electronic ARC of this novel received in exchange for an honest review. Expected pub date: Feb. 5, 2021 Christopher Barry-Dee is highly knowledgeable when it comes to serial killers. He is a former Military member, and is now a criminologist who has many published novels, and has interviewed at least thirty serial killers. His newest novel, “Serial Killers at the Movies”, targets Hollywood’s obsession with serial killers, and analyzes which movies are accurate, and which ones are exploitive fodder. Barry- Dee discusses quite a few of Hollywood’s famous serial killer films, such as “Silence of the Lambs” (one of my favourites), “The Amityville Horror (Barry-Dee describes these films as completely exploitive to the family involved, as the story always focuses on a non-existent paranormal element instead of the tragic tale of a family murder), “Zodiac”, and, of course, “Psycho”. He goes into detail about which elements are based on fact, and he even hints at which serial killer (or killers) may have been used as an example in the film’s development. Of course, infamous serial killers such as Bundy, Manson and John Wayne Gacy are highlighted in this novel, but less well-known killers also play into Barry-Dee’s story. He discusses any and all movies that possibly make mention of a serial killing, even documentaries from the early days of filmmaking, and analyzes each one in short, succinct paragraphs. I thoroughly enjoyed Barry-Dee’s honest and unpretentious writing style, and it is evident that he is knowledgeable and that his novel is well-researched. Of course, movie analysis is very objective, and Barry-Dee makes it very clear when what he is discussing is merely his personal opinion. I loved hearing about the known and less well known serial killers of our time, and how they were adapted into film (such as in one of my favourite movies, “The Silence of the Lambs”) but Barry-Dee also takes a bit of a hiatus and starts discussing police procedural and mob boss movies, and any movies where a penitentiary or jail is the focal point (“The Green Mile” and “The Shawshank Redemption” being two). Granted, it is very likely that serial killers exist among the mob and convict population, but Barry-Dee did not discuss a specific offender, and these parts of the novel seemed disconnected. “Serial Killers at the Movies” is a must-read for fans of serial killers, in both literature and on the big screen, and Barry-Dee gives a realistic and legitimate breakdown of what Hollywood did right (and where they chose to pander to the money-making storylines).

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I will definitely be recommending this one to fans of true crime. It was a different concept and I really enjoyed it.

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Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for giving me the chance to read an early digital copy of this book. I am a huge fan of true crime and I knew immediately that I wanted to read this book. Serial Killers at the Movies talks about and focuses on serial killers and the movies that they inspired. One caveat that I would give to readers at the outset of this book is that there are murders that are described in a very chilling and often graphic manner, so this is not a book that is for the faint of heart. If you can handle that, then you are in for quite the journey as the author delves into the realm of cinema. Of course, we all knew of the infamous movie serial killers like Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers, but what about the real life ones that inspired movies like Silence of the Lambs and Se7en? This is where Christopher Berry-Dee comes in to bridge that gap between the movies and real life. Overall, I thought this was a fascinating look at both the fiction and the non-fiction. I was very interested in reading the connections between the movies and the real life cases that inspired them, and I even learned some new facts about cases that I thought I knew everything about. I am definitely going to be recommending this one to my fellow true crime lovers!

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Really good, made for fascinating reading, looking at serial killers shown on film and tv and how well they portrayed and how badly in some cases... leaves me with a feeling of unease that no matter if it’s well shown you are still disturbing a victims family and their lives over and over again. But it does make for a rather intriguing book and insight into serial killers and how they are portrayed.

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I can highly recommend this book. It was professionally written and researched. There was some info that I knew already but a lot of it was new to me and very interesting. The Author has had a great deal of experience interviewing serial killers. He quite often linked to his other books as well which has made me want to read them now too. Thanks to Net galley and Ad Lib Publishers for the ARC.

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A fascinating exploration of the real life inspiration behind the portrayal of serial killers in the movies. The reader learns about both well known and less known serial killers. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

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I can definitely recommend this title to adults who are both interested in true crime and in movies that purport to be "based on the true story." Berry-Dee examines different films and made-for-TV movies and how they are based on different crimes. Interestingly, Berry-Dee has met and interviewed many serial killers for previous books.

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***Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*** This book was right up my alley. I am fascinated by the psychology of serial killers and the interviews were extremely interesting in this book.

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Thank you so much NetGalley and the author for providing this ARC I am a basic white girl, so I love true crime/serial killers. I enjoyed reading about some that I didn't know about and recap the ones I knew about. Would recommend this book to fellow basic white girls.

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This was a fun read. It covered a lot of "pop-culture" crime that you probably are familiar with if you have seen true crime shows before. There were also a few discussions of movies such as Shawshank Redemption. The author is great at writing quick summaries, in a movie review style format. This could be a nice reference for true crime aficionados. Overall, a well-written brief overview of serial killers and crime.

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“When one wonders where filmmakers get their ideas from, the same can be said of some real-life killers.” My ignorance of crime-fiction, real-life murder stories and serial killers has ended brutally with this slap-in-the-face kind of book that literally took my breath away. From page one, I noticed I was holding my breath, gawking at the creativity of mankind in pursuit of killing a fellow human beings. Interestingly most murderers can switch between wicked and normal without an effort, so good luck for the fainted hearts like me, who used to live in a bubble of positive vibes. I never really watched crime movies but I guess I will start after this grand opening. The fact that I’m terrorized by the killers presented here and their representation in cinema does not prevent me from scrutinizing more on this wild subject. Though there were ups and downs and some gruesome parts, I really enjoyed this informative book and fluent narration of the author, whose professional background made me question life. It presents food for thought and opens up more gates with various book and movie recommendations. A must-read for the lovers of the genre and crime-movie afficionados.

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**I received an ARC from the publisher on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I absolutely love how this book was written. I'm not gonna lie, the title had me hooked. But as I started reading, I was not disappointed. This book is about popular movies (like Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, etc) and tells you the actual truth behind the movies, the real crimes/stories. If you're a fan of true crimes, movies, or like learning interesting facts, I recommend this book.

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If you are fascinated by serial killers, this is a great read for you. The author talks to the people behind the horrific crimes we see on the silver screen. He talks to them in depth. This opens your eyes to things that weren't shown in the movies and gives you a rare glimpse into how their minds work and why they do the things they did. However, the depraved acts are beyond understanding, but the killers tell you why they did it in their own words. This book is not for the faint of heart. But if you like to read about serial killers, you are not afraid to read books like this. I would recommend. I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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If you're a fan of true-crime, as so many of us are these days, you'll no doubt be familiar with Christopher Berry-Dee's name already. An investigative criminologist who has spent years studying and writing about serial killers, he is most well-known for his 'Talking With Serial Killers' series of books and has explored all areas of a serial killer's mind. Now, it's time for him to go to the movies, as Dee looks at killers who have become stars of the big screen. As a huge film fan and true-crime addict, I knew that Serial Killers At The Movies was going to be the perfect book for me so I had to read it as soon as I could. I love looking at how well a film tells a true story, so I was really interested to see Dee's first-hand account of his conversations with the people behind the iconic characters in films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, The Silence Of The Lambs, and Seven. It's a fascinating concept and one that I couldn't wait to dive into. Analysing both the film and the actions of the real-life serial killer, Dee provides so much fantastic insight as he explores these stories from a variety of angles. Not only does he look at the murderers who have inspired fictional films, he also considers how well biopics portray their real-life inspirations, and at how true [or sometimes fabricated] stories are used for our entertainment. "One should never lose sight of the fact that behind every dramatisation of a real-life tragedy - however loosely the facts are presented - a real person, in an actual place, has met a truly terrible end." Dee does a brilliant job of looking at his subject on a broad scale, meaning that there is a wide variety of films and serial killers to support his discussion. But while I like this diversity, it does mean that not all of the chapters are as gripping as the gruesome murderer who inspired The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or the shocking truth behind The Amityville Horror and its 20 sequels. However, Dee's analysis did get me thinking about the importance of balancing a film's entertainment value with the facts, as we can often forget the victim in these tragic circumstances when the focus is placed on the perpetrator. As Dee questions what it is about serial killers that appeals to us when seeking entertainment, he highlights the boundaries that are often overstepped and gives an in-depth narrative of what films should be doing when exploring real-life monsters, which I found very eye-opening as a film fan. "I understand the nature of film and TV making is to provide entertainment. That's not necessarily a bad thing if they actually help us all understand the impact of real-life homicide and the human stories behind the crimes." As someone who is familiar with most of the films that are explored, there is occasionally too much time spent on detailing some of their plots, but this will serve well for those who haven't seen them. What it all comes down to, though, is Dee's revelation of the truth. It's annoying when films don't tell the whole story, but sometimes the real details are a whole lot worse than any film would ever be able to get away with. While I wouldn't normally mention any proofreading comments when I receive an ARC because I know that it's still going through the editorial process, I can't know for sure what will be changed so I think it's only fair to make a few additional comments about some of the negatives I found. I will, however, note that I think that my early release copy is still due to go through a big edit, so these comments shouldn't affect your judgement too much. As it was at my time of reading, not all of the chapters felt relevant and some of the stories needed to be linked together better. The book felt quite choppy in places, repetitive in others, and not all of the stories felt complete. It also felt like an advertisement to his other work at times, although these comments could just be references for Dee to expand on in a future edit. Nevertheless, it's got me interested enough to go and check out his other books, so it certainly worked on me. Like I said, I think my copy of this book is still due to be edited quite heavily at this stage, so I think the issues I found in the second-half are ones that will be resolved when it comes to being published next year. After another edit, this is definitely a book that I would recommend, and a must-read if you're a fan of horror films.

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Such a great book!! As someone who spends a lot of time reading, discussing, and listening to true crime stories, I thought I had heard it all. I still learned so much in this book! I knew the vague details of movie characters being based off of Ed Gein or Ted Bundy, but I was shocked to learn some of the deeper truths that this book really delved into. If you're a fan of true crime, this book is definitely for you!

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In Serial Killers at the Movies, investigative criminologist Christopher Berry-Dee presents the real life killers who inspired film characters, either in whole or in part. Through archival research and extensive interviews with many of the serial killers, Berry-Dee shows that fact truly is stranger, and more evil, than fiction. Whether a film character is based entirely on a given killer or is a composite of several, this background adds a new dimension to watching and appreciating the films. An important element of this book, which I think is often overlooked when a book examines film based on any aspect of real life, is the author's willingness to point out which films got things wrong. Not always simply facts but presentation and even exploitation. One can certainly argue than any use of real life serial killers to create film characters, even for films claiming to be as factual as possible, is exploitation. That broad argument aside, there is blatant misuse of facts and procedures strictly for monetary gain that goes beyond any questionable appropriation and exploitation. Reading about those instances shed new light on those films. I recommend this to fans of true crime as well as film lovers who like to know the story behind some of their favorite, or not so favorite, films. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

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Some terrific insights into the cases behind some of our most popular movies. The author probes what it is About crime and murder that appeals to us When seeking entertainment and provides information on some of the less ethical approaches and interpretations in existence.

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