Peter Vronsky, the author of Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present, blames traumatised fathers, not over-domineering mothers, for the huge rise in serial killers in the US between the 1960s and 80s.
He speculates that servicemen who saw or participated in unspeakable horrors during World War II were never going to win too many ‘father of the year’ awards. Vronsky predicts that another serial killer spree in around 2030 will be directly attributable to the scars left by the financial crisis of 2008.
Vicious, vile, viral
Ted Bundy ticks the box for being of the right era – he was born in 1946. But paternity was never confirmed. As a killer well known for getting about a bit, apparently so did his mother, with any number of returning veterans in the frame as Teddy’s Daddy. Like Charles Manson and several others, his upbringing was more about having a permanently absent father than an absent-minded one. The tell-tale signs you’re bringing up a serial killer, in case you’re taking notes at home, are arson, cruelty to animals and bedwetting – all three and it’s time to call Clarice Starling.
You might never be able to swoon over High Street Musical again thanks to Zac Efron’s decision to play Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (Netflix from May 3). In the trailer, he looks frighteningly convincing.
Presumably it’s believed that enough time has passed for a high-profile portrayal of Bundy on screen, but he was so very vile and the wounds are deep – not least due to the publicity he engineered. Unlike most killers, who when caught can’t wait to hold court about how omnipotent they are, Bundy went for the real thing, defending himself on several occasions – and the trials were often televised. He was both vile and viral.
But will the film be as upsetting as Chernobyl (HBO Nordic from May 7), a miniseries about the 1986 disaster starring Jared Harris, Emily Watson and Stellan Skarsgård. From the trailer, it really does look ghastly – in a good way, if there is such a thing. But sometimes harrowing is what we need to learn the lessons of the past.
The real Hollywood hustle
The same can’t be said about the dreary Ghostbusters with busts and Ocean’s 8 with plaits, as the gender-reversal trend is still going strong, with 1988 classic comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels the next on the penis chopping board. Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson have taken over the roles played by Michael Caine and Steve Martin in The Hustle (Not Released Worldwide; May 9), and presumably if this is a faithful remake, they’ll be out-smarted by a man who they underestimated.
The problem with these films is that almost every new release these days is scrutinised in similar vein. For example, is Wine Country (May 10 from Netflix), in which a group of 50-something women (where Amy Poehler goes, Tina Fey is bound to follow) head off to sample vino and winos, a remake of Sideways? And is Long Shot (71; May 2), in which the US president-elect (Charlize Theron) falls for a lowly speechwriter (Seth Rogen) revisiting The American President?
In the latter’s case, it’s a no, although it does play out like a 1990s romcom, but fortunately Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) is at hand to raise the laugh quota as the president
Mostly crying shames
Rounding up the rest of the film releases, nobody is onboard to save The Last Summer (Netflix from May 3), a forgettable looking romcom about kids enjoying their last summer before adulthood – like that’s a set date or something.
Coming out on Netflix on the same date, Spanish dramedy A pesar de todo (‘Despite Everything’ in English) looks more promising. There are echoes of Mama Mia as four very different sisters discover they all have different fathers via a video message from their now deceased mother.
Who knows, maybe it will be remade into English and do its best to halve its Metacritic score like Miss Bala, a 2011 Mexican thriller in which a young woman is coerced into working for a drug cartel as an assassin. While the original is morally ambiguous, the 2019 version (41; May 9) is a tale of female empowerment. It’s strong leads, innit.
Neil Jordan gave us one of those in The Crying Game … or at least he’s making up for it with Greta (53; May 2) in which Isabelle Huppert does her best to stalk Chloë Grace Moretz after deliberately leaving her bag on a train so she can torment the do-gooder who hands it back. You just have to love films like this (The Hitcher was another), which effectively warn us that it’s pointless being decent.
Stark back and in pole position
Sean Bean learnt this lesson as Ned Stark, so hopefully he’ll have better luck in Curfew (HBO Nordic from May 15), a cult classic in the making that won’t be to everyone’s taste. It’s like The Cannonball Run, but with zombies. Nobody’s undead in Dead to Me (Netflix from May 3), just a wife (Christina Appelgate) recovering from the death of a husband who quickly gets irritated by all the sympathy. While Chris O’Dowd and Rosamund Pike’s marriage is on its last legs in State of the Union (HBO Nordic from May 7), a promising comedy with an interesting back story-heavy narrative.
Elsewhere, Undercover (Netflix from May 3) is a compelling Dutch police infiltration drama that looks 100 times more convincing that most UK and US series; Lucifer (S4, Netflix from May 8) and Channel Zero (S4, HBO Nordic from May 2) are returning; the recent staging of the podcast My Dad wrote a Porno (HBO Nordic from May 12) has been televised; Lord of the Flies gets the small town treatment in The Society (Netflix from May 10); and Saw has been resurrected as Flinch (Netflix from May 3), a game show in which contestants are challenged not to react to stressful situations.
Contrary to fears, the Saw franchise didn’t end up spawning a new generation of serial killers – although you could argue its crimes against cinema were far worse.