Of all the horror genres, serial killer films are the most frightening for me because these murderers are in the newspapers all the time. Odds are pretty slim that I'll be eaten by a zombie, but twisted serial killers actually do exist and I am convinced that my ultimate demise will somehow involve a trip to Wal-Mart for duct tape, a hunting knife, Hefty lawn bags, and a hoagie. Plus, I was born and raised in Milwaukee and grew up hearing about serial killers like Chicago's clown/killer John Wayne Gacy Jr. (who *was* a clown and not a killer of them, although he did like to paint them)...
...and Ed Gein (caught in the late '50s), who was probably Wisconsin's most notorious serial killer before Jeffrey Dahmer came along in the '90s. Here's a short documentary about Ed, who was part of Hitchcock's inspiration for Psycho. Ed, who also had mommy issues, used to gut people like deer and use their skins and skulls to make furniture, lampshades, ashtrays, etc. He was handy like that.
I'm not sure how familiar people are with Jeffrey Dahmer anymore, but he started murdering folks in the '70s and wasn't caught until the mid '90s. He lived in my hometown, frequented a couple of the same bars I used to go to, and looked creepily familiar when I first saw his picture on the news. My best friend's dad was one of the cops on the scene when the remains of his victims were found in the guy's apartment. The stench was unbearable, and he has no idea why the neighbors never complained.
So anyway, my point is that serial killers are something you hear about all the time, so they pack the biggest scare punch for me. This film from 1990, Henry:Portrait of a Serial Killer, is probably one of the most realistic, frightening, and well-made serial killer films you'll ever see:
I saw it at a 10pm showing when it came out, and I had to walk home alone afterward, which was very poor planning indeed.
On a lighter note, here are trailers from a couple of my all-time favorite deranged killer B-movies. Both are brilliant.
In Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) some young Yankee travelers are lured into a southern small town that isn't always there, and the townspeople convince them to join them for a centennial celebration they are throwing. Then the Yanks are all killed one-by-one in extremely inventive ways--some of which include festival games that the whole town participates in. It is awesome and has the best soundtrack since Lawrence of Arabia.
In Spider Baby (1968), distant relatives come to visit three orphaned children who are being cared for by the family chauffeur (played by Lon Chaney Jr.). The kids have some weird disease that causes evolutionary regression. Gore ensues.
Oh...and on a lighter lighter note, here's my all-time favorite black comedy, Parents (1989), in which a kid in a seemingly idyllic 1950s family learns that his parents are extremely twisted individuals.
Sleep tight, all.