Why Can’t Hollywood Get Serial Killers Right?

posted: 02/19/13


By M. William Phelps

A convicted serial killer sits in his cell watching television and is unimpressed by what he sees as far serial killer dramas go.

Sounds bizarre, right? Perhaps even appalling. Like, how dare this SOB, who's serving several life sentences, comment on what us human beings out in the free world watch at night in the privacy of our homes?

Makes you want to spit in his face.

This particular serial killer, a man we use on DARK MINDS every week to unravel the mind of the murderer we're tracking, was talking specifically about the FOX drama "The Following," a very successful new series from "Scream" writer Kevin Williamson. "The Following" portrays Edgar Allan Poe-obsessed murderer Joe Carroll, played rather darkly by actor James Purefoy. Carroll mentors a cult-like group of followers. Kevin Bacon plays a former FBI agent sent to unravel Carroll's warped plan to populate the earth with a band of brainwashed killers--or something along those lines.

It's Hollywood, what can I say.

On DARK MINDS, we call our serial killer-consultant Raven. He's a real killer (responsible for between five and 20 brutal murders--we don't want to release actual numbers so as to hide his identity). What rattles Raven's cage is that Hollywood, in general, never seems to get it right when it comes to portraying serial killers. Raven claims he understands there has to be a bit of send up, some fluff tossed into a drama to make it, well, compatible with its competition; but he shakes his head in disbelief when he turns on the television and serial killers are portrayed as though they're obsessed with living out the narratives of, say, "Seven," "Saw," "American Psycho," or TV dramas like "Dexter."

"It's just not like that out there when we're killing and searching for victims," Raven claims.

Raven did not name himself, as some reports have speculated. We named Raven--long before the FOX drama "The Following" was announced. It's a codename, used to conceal his true identity, so as not to allow him to capitalize on his crimes or gain any recognition through the program. The name does not refer to any actual details of the killer's life or crimes. During the first season of DARK MINDS we chose "13" as the codename of our serial killer (Raven and 13 are, incidentally, different serial killers).

What's important to me is not his name, but what he does for the cold cases we're looking into and the understanding we all seek in learning why someone would murder multiple people and, as Raven says, "enjoy it."

Interviews are one of the most valuable tools of my investigations, same as they are for law enforcement. When you get to talk to suspects or a perpetrator, that's when you feel you're moving a case forward--and if you don't have the actual killer to go to, the next best thing is an expert. In sports we value the context and insight of ex-players and coaches. That's my take on Raven; tragically, he was very good. And if he can get me and my audience thinking about who these killers are, then we're one step closer.

What Raven told me recently--"Us real serial killers have a hard time keeping up with the Hollywood version of ourselves"--seemed to catch some online traction after it was released. Some were outraged; others found it laughable. Whatever the case, Raven explained that Hollywood has the opportunity to get it right, but refuse to, even under the simplest circumstances.

"I turned it on ['The Following'] and then turned it off after I realized they were actually making light of what serial killers like myself represent. Killing is no joke. It's something I did. I did it very well. I saw it as a purpose. It became a compulsion. It's not a cartoon. 'The Following' is pure propaganda."

Raven is not sorry for what he did. He believes his victims deserved to die. He is, however, completely clear when he says that had he not been caught, he would unquestionably be still killing.

Moreover, the cat-'n-mouse portrayed on television is not something real serial killers would ever engage in while they're active. They might, like BTK or the Original Nightstalker, go cold for years and then re-engage with police for a little bit of "excitement's crave," but not while they're collecting victims.

That, my friends, is pure Hollywood.

People ask me why I do this: Talk to serial killers on a regular basis. Yes, the emotional toll is overwhelming. But the way I see it, when you chase the devil, as we do on DARK MINDS, you need to step into the darkness--and sometimes, amid the flames and screams of hell, you just might have to have a chat with one of his disciples in order to catch him.

A recorded interview with Raven on the topic of Hollywood and why Raven has chosen to become involved with DARK MINDS! LISTEN HERE.

M. William Phelps is the host of DARK MINDS; his latest book is KISS OF THE SHE-DEVIL.

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