It is an undeniable fact that our society has a morbid fascination with serial killers. When presented with a truly shocking story, we just can’t seem to look away. Regardless of whether they are real or fictional, these terrifying monsters strike a chord with us. They leave us shaken, filling us with a very potent fear of the man living next door. I mean, sure – he might seem nice and he looks fairly harmless, but is he? Is he really?
The volume of media surrounding the subject is a testament to this fact. There is a wealth of books, movies, and television shows out there that specifically cover the gruesome topic. The demand for such material is high and comes to us in many different forms. However, there are some specific examples that stand out above the rest in terms of their sheer barbarity.
Today, we will be looking at five of the worst offenders. So, buckle up – because here are the Top 5 Most Brutal Films about Fictional Serial Killers.
Now, before we dive into it, a word of warning: DO NOT seek out and watch any of these films without properly researching their content first. They are not for sensitive viewers. The entries on this list contain extremely graphic depictions of some of the worst atrocities that one human being can inflict upon another. Proceed with caution.
5. The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)
Directed by John Erick Dowdle and produced by Drew Dowdle. Starring Ben Messmer, Stacy Chbosky, Meredith Cross, and Henry Dittman. Distributed by MGM Distribution.
Synopsis: After raiding the home of a suspected murderer, police discover a massive collection of videotapes that chronicle his lurid crimes. In a series of sickening scenes, the investigators unravel the true extent of his heinous deeds, in the hopes that they will find something that leads to an arrest. Eventually, the authorities believe that they have found their man, but this revelation seems a little too good to be true. Is the killer still out there? Only time will tell.
One of the more disturbing entries within the found-footage horror genre, The Poughkeepsie Tapes is definitely an unpleasant film to watch. I think the best way to describe it would be that it is excessive. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it makes a point in being excessive. That it almost revels in it. The Poughkeepsie Tapes received a fairly negative response from critics upon its release but is still widely cited for its savagery, giving it lasting notoriety which has followed the film since it first came out over a decade ago.
4. Megan is Missing (2011)
Directed by Michael Goi and produced by Mark Gragnani. Starring Rachel Quinn, Amber Perkins, Dean Waite, and Jael Elizabeth Steinmeyer. Distributed by Anchor Bay Films.
Synopsis: Amy is a fourteen-year-old girl who is faced with a serious problem. Her best friend Megan has gone missing. You see, Megan had been talking to a mysterious stranger online, who she believed to be a teenaged boy named Josh. She had recently decided that it was finally time to meet in person, so that’s exactly what she set out to do. Nobody has seen her since. Amy takes it upon herself to investigate ‘Josh’ and the events leading up to Megan’s disappearance, but things take a dark turn for the worse and it soon becomes apparent that the young lady has bitten off more than she can chew.
Megan is Missing is every parent’s worst nightmare. The notion that some sick degenerate is out there, stalking your child, and planning to do unspeakable things to them is a very real fear, which resonates on one of the deepest levels possible. The film is upsetting, to say the very least. It personally made me feel sick to my stomach after watching it for the first and, thankfully, only time. This is not one to go into lightly. It is a perverted, nihilistic experience that is likely to leave you feeling emotionally drained and depressed after the fact. Viewer beware.
3. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
Directed by John McNaughton and produced by Lisa Dedmond and Steven A. Jones. Starring Michael Rooker, Tom Towles, and Tracy Arnold. Distributed by Greycat Films.
Synopsis: Based loosely around the real-life crimes of Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole, the film follows the twisted exploits of its titular character. Henry lives in Chicago with his buddy Otis, who he met while serving time in prison. See, Henry killed his mama with a knife. And, as it would turn out, he didn’t stop with just her. Not by a long shot. It is a match made in Hell when Henry introduces his friend into his depraved world of murder, and soon the two are rampaging through the city and killing people at random. Tensions between the partners in crime spike when Otis’ sister comes to stay with him and takes a liking to Henry, with disastrous consequences for the group.
No list of disturbing horror films would be complete without Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Aside from being Michael Rooker’s first major role on screen, it is actually a really good movie too. It is unnerving, fast-paced, and creepy as hell. This didn’t stop the film from receiving an X rating from the MPAA upon its release in 1986, though, with the film also undergoing several cuts in the UK. Unflinchingly wicked and controversial, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer remains an infamous title to this very day.
2. Man Bites Dog (1992)
Directed, produced, and written by Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, and Benoît Poelvoorde. Starring Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, Benoît Poelvoorde, and Jenny Drye. Distributed by Acteurs Auteurs Associés (AAA).
Synopsis: At first glance, Benoît appears to be a cultured Belgian gentleman. He is very well-spoken and enjoys discussing the finer things in life, such as poetry, architecture, and classical music. He is generous with his friends and likes to have a drink and a laugh as much as the next guy does. At face value, he seems to be a jovial, friendly fellow. But secretly, there is much more to Ben than meets the eye. He also is a vicious career criminal, who kills without remorse at the slightest provocation. After agreeing to allow a camera crew to shadow him, Ben takes the young filmmakers on an increasingly violent and depraved journey through his unsavory world of death and carnage.
When it comes to cinematic depictions of violence, Man Bites Dog is about as mean-spirited as they come. The film is shocking, both in its content and in its overall tone. What it lacks in gore, it makes up for in spades with a bold, unapologetic nastiness. Although it does have a lot of lighter moments, when Man Bites Dog does hit, it hits hard. View this picture at your own peril. It is a doozy.
1. August Underground (2001)
Directed, produced, and written by Fred Vogel. Starring Fred Vogel, Allen Peters, Kyle Dealman, and Alexa Iris. Distributed by Toetag Pictures.
Synopsis: August Underground chronicles the sordid activities of a man named Peter, who is – you guessed it – a serial killer. Peter is followed by an unnamed accomplice, who records the events of the film as they unfold using a handheld camcorder. Unlike other entries on this list, August Underground lacks a traditional, structured plot. It is more so a collection of clips, showcasing the main character’s twisted exploits. The two men embark on a series of misadventures throughout the movie, which ranges from general mischief-making to outright torture and murder. August Underground is essentially a simulated snuff film.
Make no mistake, August Underground and its sequels are not films meant for the faint of heart. While the second installment, August Underground’s Mordum is by far the worst in terms of its content, the first film is the perfect introduction to the franchise. It is perverse, it is intensely violent, and above all else, it is realistic in its delivery. It carries a distinct feeling of authenticity and effectively presents itself as being legitimate. The series has drawn a lot of understandable criticism over the years and has even lead to the director, Fred Vogel, being arrested at the Canadian border on obscenity charges. Despite this, it has a devoted cult following and is widely considered to be the most extreme horror film ever made.
If you enjoyed ‘Top 5 Most Brutal Films about Fictional Serial Killers‘, then please feel free to check out our other articles covering film and TV, here.