Updated: Nov 12, 2019
What makes serial killer movies so terrifying is often the fact that they are based on true stories, real people, and documented incidents. The serial killer lurks unexpected in dark corners; anyone is a suspect, and anywhere the danger is disturbingly real. These movies are a commonly enjoyed subgenre which requires a powerful opening scene to set the stage.
Here are a few that had memorable opening
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The gloomy, tinted opening shots are of the protagonist; Clarice the small made, frail young lady sweating it out in the woods; struggling to complete a physical training course. An FBI agent informs her that she’s expected at Crawford’s office, and the scene builds rapidly from a mundane setting to the
shots as she enters the building and reaches the office.
There the sudden and shocking images on the
wall of victims skinned and mutilated leave the audience in no doubt about where the movie is heading
and the level of intensity they can expect. After a quick briefing, she is sent straight to interview the
menacing Hannibal Lecter. The offices and cabins and elevators are all forgotten as she is sent into the
prison where she must talk to him as he awaits her in his guarded cell. What follows and leads on to the
rest of the movie is one of the most chilling character encounters and preludes to any movie in this
In David Fincher’s Se7en, the film begins with an introduction to the characters and theme of the film.
Detective Somerset is shown as a meticulous, orderly and seasoned investigator; all through a simple shot taken in his bedroom as he gets dressed for work. From the rain and gloom of the city and outdoor
shots we are taken straight into the dingy room of the first murder.
Somerset meets Mills; a much younger, confident detective with an entirely different personality.
In a brief conversation that follows we learn about their contexts, the current situations they are in, how different their goals and motivations are, and how the tension is going to build not just in the plot but in the juxtaposition of these two central characters’ diametrically opposite personalities.
Zodiac has one of the most gruesome openings; introducing the brutality of the serial killer from the first scene.
A young couple are out on a date, and just as they stop in a secluded area, a car drives up behind them and they immediately know something isn’t right.
Their fear is short lived, as the killer comes up to
the boy’s window and shoots him point blank. Several bullets are fired, and just as the girl screams in shock, she meets the same fate.
The silencer of the gun, the masked stranger, the suddenness and
strangeness of events and the sheer immediacy of the scene make it powerful, intense and truly
What other remarkable opening scenes come to mind in this genre! Share your comments!