“The Devil Made Me Do It!”: Representing Evil and Disarticulating Mind/Body in the Supernatural Serial Killer Film

in The Changing Face of Evil in Film and Television
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In this chapter we explore the changing fictional representations of serial killers and consider the ways that supernatural horror and the serial killer subgenre have been hybridised in Hollywood films such as Shocker (1989), Fallen (1998), and Frailty (2001). We divide supernatural serial killer films into three categories: 1) those featuring “franchise killers” such as Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers; 2) those featuring human killers who return from the grave as supernatural forces, as in Shocker; and 3) those featuring human killers possessed by demons, as in Fallen. We examine representational differences across and within these categories, arguing that such films nevertheless share key properties. Supernatural serial killers are typically “othered” as inhuman and their evil treated as metaphysical rather than psychological. A philosophically “dualist” view of mind/body is consistently expressed in these films, with the killers’ evil “souls” persisting after bodily death and/or leaping from “host” body to body.