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SERIAL KILLERS AT THE MOVIES ****
Written by Christopher Berry-Dee.

 

RRP: £8.99 Published in Paperback by Ad Lib

Our now.

 

It seems like there's always been an obsession with true crime. Stories of serial-killers and brutal murders have proliferated popular culture for centuries, and so it's no wonder that film often looks to them for inspiration. Christopher Berry-Dee's latest book, SERIAL KILLERS AT THE MOVIES, takes a selection of well-known (and some less notable) horror classics and examines the stories that inspired them, covering everything from PSYCHO to MONSTER.

 

Now if I'm brutally honest, true crime is not my thing, and I know decidedly little about the stories which have inspired some of my favourite horror movies. I'm okay with a hockey-masked Jason Voorhees bending cops backwards until he breaks their spine or decapitating people so fast their head spins, after all, that's the world of fantasy. Real murders, though? Yeah, that's not for me. However, despite this prejudice, I have to confess that I found this book immensely interesting and engaging. Berry-Dee has managed to give me brand new insight on some horror-classics as well as highlighting films I'd never even heard of (10 RILLINGTON PLACE has immediately shot to the top of my watch list). His views on the AMITYVILLE movies are particularly damning, used to highlight one of the themes of the book, which is how film can be both exploitative and harmful.

 

Which brings me to my next point. As himself testifies in the book's introduction, Christopher Berry-Dee is not a movie critic but instead a criminologist. He seems to be one of the criminologists. As a result, the text is full of personal anecdotes and memoir. The subtitle of 'My intimate talks with mass murderers who became stars of the big screen' might be just a tad misleading, after all these are not transcripts of interviews. In numerous chapters, Berry-Dee didn't speak to the murderer. However, the wealth of personal insight he gives to a writing style which reads like a series of short seminars (rather brilliantly so I should add) is far more interesting than a mere transcript would be. He even litters the text with references to his own and other interviews, books, articles and where you can find them, should you fancy some post-class reading.

 

With such a book, it would perhaps be easy to develop a formula for each chapter. For example, opening with an introduction, telling the story of the real murders and then closing with critiquing the film's accuracy to events. However, Berry-Dee wisely avoids this and seems to approach each chapter afresh. One of the most fascinating is devoted to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, which of course mentions Ed Gein (easily the most famous inspiration for the film) but also covers a wealth of other killers whose crimes assisted in the creation of Leatherface. Amusingly Berry-Dee even discusses how the film inspired urban legends of a real-life killer living with his family in Poth and ghost stories surrounding Ed Gein's house.

 

One final point which might seem like an odd one is just how much humanity Berry-Dee brings to a book like this. Perhaps it's an unfair assumption, but as previously stated, I'm more of a horror movie fan than I am someone interested in true crime. When I received this title for review, I imagined it to be somewhat grisly- which it certainly is. However, I expect something which reveled in the crimes more, describing gruesome acts and debating how they were compared on screen. Berry-Dee does describe the acts but in a very matter of fact way. He discusses in-depth how victims have been treated, particularly concerning how their misery has been exploited, and it's incredibly touching and moving. He gives a personal opinion as well as fact, and it makes the book, at times, a very satisfying read.

 

All in all, for True Crime fans, this is a must. For someone not well versed in that world but who enjoys slasher films, this should still prove an interesting read and provide real insight into some horror movie classics.

 

By Callum McKelvie.

 

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