Connect with us

Published

on

If you haven’t seen Vernon Zimmerman’s film Fade to Black, I recommend you watch it immediately. It is a criminally underrated gem that can only be appreciated by a certain portion of the movie-loving population. Released in 1980, Fade to Black is a film made for horror cinephiles ripped down the middle between dark character study and oddball slasher. It is one of my all-time favorite horror films to come out of the 1980s and a lot of that has to do with the film’s lead character, Eric Binford (Dennis Christopher), a unique kind of serial killer.

There are two ways to look at a character like Eric. You either sympathize with him or you think he’s a weasel. He’s an awkward loner obsessed with movies. They are his only source of comfort, and the characters his only friends. He’s so frightened of the world and uncomfortable in his own skin that he begins to impersonate these characters in his everyday life, merging them with his own personality. These new personas enable him to take revenge on his bullies.

His attachment to film is framed like an addiction. The late-night movie sessions he obsessively engages in are very suggestive of drug use. Sitting in a little ball in a ratty t-shirt in the dark as he stares at the projecting images with a dazed expression, the drug has consumed his life. He’s only alive when he’s pretending to be someone else.

Eric’s behavior can easily be written off as the behavior of someone struggling with a mental illness, someone who’s just “crazy,” but if you’re able to understand what’s going on inside his head, then his odd behavior seems reasonable, even rationale. Fade to Black is not the only film to show a movie-inspired killer but most take a satirical approach while Fade to Black takes a slightly more clinical approach. Eric Binford may be a product of fiction but the cinephilic killer is very real.

Peter Moore

In 1995, the owner of a chain of movie theaters named Peter Moore was accused of killing four men in North Wales. Also referred to as The Man in Black, Moore targeted members of the LGBTQ community, stabbing, and mutilating their bodies for “fun.” At the time of his arrest, it was widely believed that he had been obsessed with the Friday the 13th franchise and even blamed the murders on a fictitious male lover named Jason.

Peter Moore

Moore wasn’t like most prolific serial killers. He had a good life growing up with a mother who doted on him. He had no prior violent behavior that anyone could see and his murder spree seemingly came out of nowhere but his actions during his own trial were that of a narcissistic psychopath in complete control. Not of a delusional movie fan. I’m not 100% sure where the Friday the 13th excuse came from but it was likely something the press made up or an excuse Moore tried to use at the last minute.

According to Alex Carlile, the lead prosecutor at Moore’s trial, Moore was a monster of a human who lived to be the center of attention. A master manipulator who was incredibly vane, he enjoyed being on trial.

Daniel Sterling

Does anyone remember the man from 2015 who bit his friend after marathoning The Walking Dead? This is very much like that, only worse. In November of 1994, a man named Daniel Sterling reportedly stabbed his girlfriend Lisa Stellwagen and drank her blood because he just loved Interview with the Vampire too much. The morning after seeing the film together, Stellwagen woke up to find Sterling staring at her in bed. When she asked what was wrong, he responded with these words straight from the Edward Cullen handbook: “I’m going to kill you and drink your blood.” And he attempted to do just that, stabbing her a total of seven times in both the back and chest. Thankfully, she survived the attack and was able to stop him.

“I was influenced by the movie. I enjoyed the movie,” Sterling said. “But I cannot sit here and blame the movie.” He also said that he believed in vampires but didn’t want to be one, which is an odd thing to say after you had just gotten finished acting like a vampire.

More about the case came to light a few years later where it was revealed that Sterling originally tried to blame the attack on a black man. His actions were later believed to have been a crime of passion brought on by a jealous rage when he discovered that Stellwagon had gone out with another man shortly before the attack. During Sterling’s trial, psychiatric experts testified that he’d suffered from psychological issues his entire life after his mother committed suicide when he was 10. He was believed to have had Type 1 Bipolar Disorder and at the time of the attack, had been suffering from a manic episode.

Daniel Gonzalez

In a murder spree that lasted for two days, Daniel Gonzalez claimed to have been inspired by the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, and to a lesser extent Friday the 13th, when he went on a drug-fueled rampage that left four people dead and two injured. He wrote about his experiences in letters that described how much he enjoyed the murders and how similar he thought he was to dream demon, Freddy Krueger.

On September 15, 2004, Gonzalez started randomly stabbing people he encountered on the street, murdering them in events that he described as “orgasmic.” Upon his arrest, Gonzalez was given six life sentences without the possibility of parole only to die by suicide just three years later on August 9, 2007.

Like Sterling, Gonzalez’s early life contained its fair share of red flags. He’d been born into a good family and given a proper education but suffered from serious behavioral problems. When he around 18 years old, he was admitted to Oak Tree Clinic, a mental health hospital where he received treatment for about a year. His claims of being influenced by Freddy Krueger were believed to have started there, which I’m going to assume originated from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, which takes place in a psychiatric hospital. It’s possible he found comfort in the film, taking on a Freddy persona to better cope with his new surroundings.

The Copycat Criminal

It’s all about the copycats. What these men did has nothing to do with their minds somehow being corrupted by the graphic depravity of horror films. Similar to the actions displayed by Eric Binford in Fade to Black, the films were the medium used to purge whatever turmoil already lived inside of them, while simultaneously serving as their model for adaptability.

Before mass civilization assembled everyone together into large piles, people lived in tribes or small groups where mimicking actions and behavior was a survival technique. Also called “mirroring,” it’s a technique that allows humans to adapt to their surroundings and better relate to their peers. However, as society has evolved and we have become excessively exposed while remaining in total isolation, television and social media have somewhat warped this. We now relate more to fictional characters than to real people.

Copycat crimes seem like a subunit of the “mirroring” effect. Used to take on a new persona other than your own, it’s often used to justify violent behavior. This is also a part of “mob mentality” in which people absorb the anger of those around them. It is a part of a depersonalization process used in culture change, war, and, even group activities. Just like how warriors paint their faces for battle or gang members dress in matching clothes, copycat criminals mimic someone of inspiration to reduce their inhibitions. Even if on a subconscious level.

Another explanation for this behavior centers on the idea that copycats thrive on the attention publicity gained by the original crime, and the subsequent attention that their related acts will receive. They learn that committing a similar action will give them the same attention. Easy fame.

Personally, I see some copycat criminals as adopting new personas of others, either real or fictional, because they have no sense of self. We all know people like this. They seem to have no opinion or personalized tastes. Everything they do, say, or think can be traced back to another person. When they grow out of this persona, they take on a new one until they become a confusing mixture of them all, losing who they originally were in the process, very much like poor Eric in Zimmerman’s Fade to Black.

Rachel Roth is a writer who lives in South Florida. She has a degree in Writing Studies and a Certificate in Creative Writing, her work has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies. @WinterGreenRoth

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Breaking News

The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine Special Live Watch Party February 10th!

Published

on

The sweet putrid stench of love lingers through the air which can only mean one thing…Valentine’s Day and its annoying little winged cherub mascot, Cupid, is fast approaching. Soon, partners will be spoiling one another with extravagant bouquets of roses, heartfelt Hallmark cards, obnoxiously large teddy bears, glistening diamond jewelry, and heart-shaped candies or boxes filled with assorted mediocre chocolates. You know? Normal things couples do. I tend to prefer my chocolate boxes filled with bleeding hearts, à la ‘My Bloody Valentine’ but, beggars can’t be choosers, right? All jokes aside, Valentine’s Day is special for many couples, however, there are also many others who find themselves celebrating this day without a significant other. Luckily, Shudder, along with drive-in king Joe Bob Briggs and co-host Darcy the Mail Girl (Diana Prince) will graciously be keeping us lonely mutants’, and yes, all you horror fanatic couples’ company on Friday, February 10th as they return with The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine, premiering live at 9pm EST.

Love Spells Abound…

Back in 2021, Joe Bob and Darcy invited us to a gruesomely passionate night of spell-binding love witches and animatronic dinosaurs infused with teenage human brains during The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You. Many, including myself, were introduced to the tantalizing 70’s inspired retro throwback ‘The Love Witch’ and the graphically goofy cult classic ‘Tammy and the T-Rex’, providing the perfect viewing pleasure to mend any broken heart. While the two films for this year’s morbid love-induced special have yet to be announced, as a special treat, Briggs has announced for the first time on The Last Drive-In, he will be marrying one lucky couple during the live showing. We here at HauntedMTL are eagerly awaiting the return of the ghoulish duo so, as is tradition, we will be proudly hosting a watch party on Twitter during the broadcasting of The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and tag us  @hauntedMTL as well as @shudder@therealjoebob, and @kinky_horror to partake in this night of unholy love.

Drawn image of Joe Bob Briggs pouring  a drop of pink liquid into a clear glass potion bottled filled with a glowing red substance. To his left lies a book a magic spells with a golden pentagram necklace resting on top. Also on the books rests a human skull with heart shaped pupils for eyes hiding behind a pair of clear glasses. In bold white letters a text reads "Join us on February 10th as we live tweet The Last Drive-In Valentine's Day Special".
Follow @hauntedMTL for live tweets and replies!

What started off as a one-time special premiering on Shudder July 13, 2018, ‘The Last Drive- In’ was originally meant to be Brigg’s swan song; one last special before hanging up the bolo tie in retirement. However, due to so many mutants, excuse me…viewers tuning in and breaking the Shudder servers, it was only natural to announce an official full season of ‘The Last Drive-In‘, which would make its explosive debut March 19, 2019. Since then, Darcy and Briggs have spawned many exclusive holiday specials, have graciously donated to many charities within the community, and have accumulated 4 seasons of ‘The Last Drive-In’, with a fifth currently in production premiering on Shudder’s 2023 schedule sometime this year, let’s hope sooner rather than later.

Picture of Joe Bob Briggs, Darcy the Mail Girl, John Patrick Brennan and Yuki Nakamura standing together dressed in medieval costumes. A cardboard cutout of Tom Atkins stands between Darcy and Yuki. Darcy is seen drapped in a beautfiul elegant princess dress, satin white with gold trim. Yuki is seen holding a small wreath of purple, white, and yellow flowers that match his loud medieval king costume. Resting atop both their heads are golden crowns. Joe Bob Briggs is seen standing to the left of Darcy, as he smiles whilst wearing a half-put together jester costumer. Lastly, we see Brennan with two wooden recorders in his hand as he mimics playing them both dress clad in a bright yellow dress.
An unexpected ceremony during The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You (2021) special.

Continue Reading

Movies n TV

Horror Noire, a Film Review

Horror Noire is a horror collection that includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.”

Published

on

Horror Noire is a horror collection brought by the combined efforts of AMC+ and Shudder. The collection includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.” Horror Noire boasts Black directors and screenwriters, providing six unique stories.

As this collection explores six stories, I will skip the usual synopsis to assess the genres and ideas explored, albeit limited as needed. Expect to find supernatural horror, creature features, and psychological thrillers. Many short films deal with these genres while exploring Black issues, but this isn’t universal for the collection.

The directors and writers include Zandashé Brown, Robin Givens, Rob Greenlea, Kimani Ray Smith, Steven Barnes, Ezra Clayton Daniels, Tananarive Due, Shernold Edwards, Victor LaValle, and Al Letson.

Woman and man wearing a vote for candidate shirt, scared of something off screne
Image from “Sundown” Directed by Kimani Ray Smith

What I Like

Each story remains unique, holding different strengths and weaknesses that highlight drastically different perspectives. Collections like VHS hold a similar premise to create their collection, but Horror Noire gives more creative freedom to its talent to be independent.

My personal favorite short film is Zandashé Brown’s “Bride Before You.” This period piece unravels a fable set in the Reconstruction Era. The entry feels Fabulistic in approach, which happens to be my preferred niche.

However, the best example of horror goes to Robin Givens’ “Daddy,” providing an existential horror tied directly to the characters involved.

Woman listening to a preacher amidst a crowd
Image from “Fugue State” directed by Rob Greenlea

What I Dislike

As mentioned, all have a particular style and idea. The downside of this approach always remains to keep the viewer interested long enough to find their favorite. If you find several underwhelming choices, this becomes a chore. But I imagine that is rare as the variety makes the options refreshing.

Personally, “Brand of Evil” had an interesting premise, but the execution fell short. On paper, it might have sounded like my favorite, which makes the lackluster execution a bigger letdown.

Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Horror Noire gives power and control to Black creators, providing a formula for a unique collection against others in the space. While the various subjects and approaches mean you aren’t likely to love them all, there should be a short film for everyone.
3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Continue Reading

Movies n TV

Dahmer, Silenced

Published

on

Episode six of Netflix’s Dahmer was not, honestly about our title character. Instead, it was about one of his victims, a man named Tony. We’ve actually seen Tony a few times during this series. We just didn’t know it was him.

Rodney Burford in Dahmer

And, well, he wasn’t exactly alive the first time we saw him.

Tony was born into a supportive, loving family. This is good because soon after he was born a viral infection took his hearing. He is black, deaf, and gay in the early 90’s.

Tony has a dream of becoming a model. And he certainly has the looks for it. He is beautiful, body and soul. He has lots of opportunities for romance, but it’s not what he’s looking for. He wants a real relationship. 

Eventually Tony moves to Madison, trying to pursue his dream. He gets a job and starts getting modeling work.

Then, he meets Jeff Dahmer at a bar. 

At first, we can almost believe that it’s going to be alright. Jeff seems happy. He’s taking care of himself. He’s not drinking as much. He even has his dad and stepmom over for dinner. It seems like his life is getting on track. Even better, he’s treating Tony right.

Then, of course, things go bad. 

One thing that has always bothered me as a true crime fan is that we know so much about the killers, but not as much about the victims. Not so much if we don’t know who the killer is, of course. But the names that are part of our pop culture are those of the killers. Dahmer, Manson, Jones, Bundy, Holms. The names we don’t know are Roberta Parks, Beth LaBiancas, Leno LaBiancas, and Tony Hughes. And clearly, we should know them.

If Tony Hughes was half the shining, positive person that the show Dahmer made him out to be, I’m so sad that he isn’t with us anymore. We need so many more people like him. And many of Dahmer’s victims were likely just like him. After all, he was attracted to them for a reason.

This was a significant episode, and I understand why it’s the highest-rated episode of the series. I finished it with a heavy heart, saddened by the loss of a man who should still be with us today. 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Continue Reading

Trending