David Fincher’s upcoming adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is considered the most-anticipated movie being released this winter. The book by Stieg Larsson focuses on the search for a serial killer by a journalist and his computer hacker friend. As Larsson’s rabid fanbase can attest, it’s material that’s practically screaming to be put on-screen. Unfortunately Fincher’s version is still weeks away from release, so we put together a list of movies for anyone anxiously waiting for their Dragon Tattoo fix.
No, we’re not talking about the 2002 remake by Christopher Nolan (which isn’t terrible), but the 1997 original of the same name. A “white noir” in the same vein as Fargo, Insomnia focuses on a police detective investigating a murder way out in the desolation of the arctic circle. Not only is it a murky murder-mystery like Larsson’s book, its protagonist is in fact played by Stellan Skarsgard, who will be appearing as Martin Vangar in Fincher’s adaptation of the book. The sheer darkness of his performance, combined with a similarly bleak script, makes it a fitting kindred spirit.
This is the movie that made David Fincher’s name in Hollywood and, not coincidentally, it happens to be one of the best serial killer pictures ever made. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are chasing after a murderer who’s themed his victims’ deaths after the seven deadly sins. It’s a somewhat gimmicky premise, but that doesn’t make its fantastic performances and stylish directing any less effective.
Of course, Fincher’s take on the material won’t be the first time it’s been adapted for the screen. Just two years ago a Swedish adaptation of the book was released. While the picture looks a bit low-rent at times, it follows the book’s story pretty well and features some strong performances. The only drawbacks are that Fincher’s version will almost certainly look a lot better (this is, after all, the guy who made a Facebook movie that looked slicker than a beer commercial) and that it’s entirely in Swedish (with English subtites).
Admittedly Psycho isn’t the original serial killer movie. However, it might as well be. You can pretty much divide horror movies by where they stand in relation to this masterpiece. The wonder about it is that even if you know about the twist coming halfway through the picture (and no getting mad at us “spoiling” a movie that was released more than 50 years ago), it doesn’t make the movie as a whole any less impressive. It’s not the shocker it once was, but even by today’s standards it’s a taught, well-told thriller with one of the more fascinating antagonists ever filmed.
The title for most enthralling serial killer of all time goes unanimously to Hannibal Lecter. For the past 20 years, every serial-killer movie has been trying to topple this giant, and while some have done well (those on this list, for example), none have overtaken the king. All the sequels and prequels by now have removed much of Lecter’s mystique, but Jonathan Demme’s original is no less wonderful for all of the many knock-offs that have come after it. Silence of the Lambs set down much of the formula that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo follows, even 20 years after its release.
While not a serial killer movie per se, this Swedish flick offers plenty of thrills and life-or-death mysteries of its own. Looking past the vampires, it’s a tense thriller focused on who can and can’t be trusted that has a body count and intelligence equal to any of these other pictures. Once again, we recommend the original rather than the remake for the authentic, Swedish atmosphere.