Many psychopaths in genre film and television are imposing, scary creeps that no one in their right mind would ever get in a car with or sit next to on public transit. But the psychopath of the more cunning variety will take you out to dinner and the opera before reveling his or her true motive and subsequently stabbing, strangling, bludgeoning, or carving you to death. And the funny thing is that you won’t even know what hit you. This slightly more rare breed of madman or madwoman is all the more terrifying because there are generally precious few warning sings, if any. They have learned to assimilate with modern society and blend in to a crowd or at the very least, avoid standing out. In celebration of the craftier brand of crazy that has been creeping up in film and television, for years, we are counting down ten of our favorite disarming onscreen psychopaths. *Some spoilers ahead*
Norman Bates from Psycho
Norman Bates is such a nice boy. He will make you a sandwich before he hits you over the head; he will spy on you in the shower from a safe distance before he mercilessly stabs you to death. Norman’s tendencies as an adult can certainly be attributed to being reared by a tyrant of a mother that scarred the poor boy for life and left him with some serious mommy issues. However, you won’t discover that until it’s too late.
Frank from Maniac (2013)
Wow. What a transformation of the character from the original to the remake? Elijah Wood was so gentle and so disarming as Frank, whereas Joe Spinell was: greasy, abrasive, off-putting, and certainly not the type of person whose van you would want to get in to. It’s worth mentioning, however, that both actors did a phenomenal job of telling Frank’s story, they just came from completely opposite ends of the spectrum and Woods played Frank as someone you would be comfortable getting to know.
Earl Brooks from Mr. Brooks
The crux of Mr. Brooks was that he was so disarming; he was a pillar in the community; he donated to charity; there was no way he could be a killer. But, of course, he was going around the streets of Portland OR and slaughtering innocent victims for his own primal urges to take human life; he just happened to be doing it under the guise of being way less of a creep.
Dexter Morgan from Dexter
Michael C. Hall was an ingenious casting choice for the role of Dexter Morgan. Hall had just come off of a turn on HBO’s Six Feet Under, playing a character that was the polar opposite of Dexter and Hall’s public persona is anything but threatening. Having seen the man speak as Comic-Con, he wouldn’t hurt a fly. He has a tendency to put his victims at ease right up until the point at which he drugs them and wraps them in plastic wrap in a kill room where they can look at pictures of the lives they themselves have taken.
Leslie Vernon from Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Leslie Vernon is one of the funniest and most effective slasher parodies of all time. It brings much of the wit that films like Student Bodies and Scream did before it. The Leslie Vernon character is such a nice guy and so congenial that it’s almost shocking to see him running around killing people. You almost expect him to be working in a soup kitchen instead of committing mass murder.