All July long we’ve been celebrating #GreedyGuts month – underrated films, cult gems, and the movies you love to hate. Today, we celebrate the sillier side of horror. Every horror film needs a ‘why‘ and some why’s are weaker, weirder, and wilder than others.
Here are our favorite movies where the killer’s motivations make no sense. These are the horror movies that make you say “wait, that’s why?!”
Here are 10 horror movie killers whose motivations make zero sense.. but we love all the same.
10. Motel Hell (1980)
Farmer Vincent runs a pig farm and slaughterhouse and makes the best jerky and sausage in town. His meats have a dark secret ingredient: people! What is his motivation for doing this? Sales! People love his meats. Here’s the question, though, what would motivate a guy who already has a pig farm and slaughterhouse to start murdering in the first place?
Strangely enough, a story out of Vancouver, BC mirrors this plot in shocking ways. Robert Pickton, a real-life murderer, killed his victims at his pig farm and mixed their meat with his own sausage. Pickton, however, was the product of a horrific childhood of abuse and was mentally deranged. In Motel Hell, Vincent seems more or less fine, outside of the whole murder and cannibalism thing. So, seriously, why would someone decide to spice things up with random biker and hippy meat?
9. Serial Mom (1994)
Serial Mom is John Water’s 1994 critique of conservative culture. In the uptight age of the ‘silent majority,’ America became obsessed with condemning ‘bad behavior.’ They vilified anyone who did things outside of what they considered acceptable decorum. So, Waters created a horror movie where the killer’s motivation is taking a stand against those who don’t follow society’s rules. Wearing white shoes after Labor Day will get you bludgeoned to death. Comments about a child’s mental health will get you run over. Keep those pinkies up or Beverly might just chop it off!
8. Silence of the Lambs (1991)
How dare I speak ill of Silence of the Lambs?! Look, this movie is nearly perfect. It remains the only horror movie to win Best Picture at the Oscars and gave us one of the most fascinating and enduring villains of all time in Hannibal Lector. What gets lost in the sea of great performances and cinematography.. is the motivation of our killer Buffalo Bill. He abducts women, keeps them somewhat motionless in a well and makes them lotion regularly. Why? Because he wants to make a dress made of human skin.
Wait, come again?! Director Jonathan Demme uses the silliness of this reason to great effect. How could someone be so cruel for such a pithy reason? Only a true evil, evidently.
7. Maniac (1980)
Using a guerilla-style of filmmaking and capitalizing on the rise in violent crime in NYC in the late 1970’s, Maniac chilled audiences to the bone. The killer seemed so vicious, so brutal and to kill his victims at random. There is some backstory given, but part of what makes Maniac work is that the film is told from the killer’s point of view. As such, there isn’t much motivation given and you’re left to figure it out. It appears this maniac is killing women so he can scalp them to add their hair to his mannequin collection. He’s an avid collector who wants his mannequins to have real hair and look more like the ‘perfect woman.’ Say what now?!
6. Happy Birthday to Me (1981)
Ginny wants desperately to be part of an elite high school clique known as the Top Ten. When she’s rejected, Ginny’s mom decides to confront the leader of the clique, Ann. Mom shows up at Ann’s house drunk, makes a fool of herself and then dies in a car crash on the way home. Suddenly, members of the Top Ten start dying and people, even Ginny herself, start suspecting Ginny is out for revenge. Nope. Turns out Ann had disguised herself as Ginny, even creating an elaborate latex mask of Ginny’s face, and was killing off the Top Ten members. Why, you ask? Well, because Ann learned she and Ginny were half-sisters and share a dad. So, because Ginny’s mom had an affair years before with Ann’s dad she decided to kill off all her own friends and frame Ginny for it? Jesus.
5. Christmas Evil (1980)
After catching his mom and dad, dressed as Santa, doing a little heavy petting on Christmas Eve, Harry develops an obsession with Santa, and all things Christmas. Even as a grown adult – his home is full of Christmas memorabilia, he dresses as Santa day and night and works at a toy factory. Eventually he snaps, glues a beard onto his face and goes into the night to sort the good kids from the bad. He starts killing people who taunt him or are on his naughty list. But, why? His motivation is ..that Santa once made out with his mom? Instead of this leading him to write a catchy song about mommy kissing Santa Clause, it sends him down decades of obsession that leads to murder.
4. The Village (2004)
Residents of the small village of Covington live an idyllic life in the forests of 19th century Pennsylvania. They survive and thrive together. There is really only one problem. If you wander too far from the village, a beast might just kill you. Bodies are torn apart, lives are lost and the citizenry knows not to wander far. A problem arises when kids start getting sick. The village has run out of the pertinent medicine, and two citizens are determined to brave the woods to seek help. In doing so, they meet the beast, but that’s not the most terrifying thing. It turns out the beast is one of the Elders and the real reason villagers were being warned not to leave is that it’s not the 19th century at all. Turns out, the chief Elder kept the village secluded so he could keep everyone ‘pure’ from modern influences. Hmm, seems like becoming Amish or starting a commune would’ve worked just as well.
3. Scream (1996)
As Ghostface stalks one victim after another, we come to understand his ultimate target is Sydney. Why? She seems to be a harmless young woman who’s never wronged anyone. Not knowing who could possibly want to kill her made the movie effective. There could be a psycho killer out there with bloodlust for you too! They don’t need a reason to want to kill you!
Ultimately we learn there is not a killer, but two killers. One is Sydney’s boyfriend Billy, the other is his friend. Why would these two want to kill her and kill all their friends along the way? It seems he kills all these people, enacts this elaborate conspiracy all because Sydney’s mom slept with his dad. Huh?! Why not kill her mom? Why not kill his own dad, for that matter? Why stage an elaborate plan in which most of his friends die to get revenge on someone who had nothing to do with the affair? Nonsense.
2. Halloween II (2009)
Part of what makes Halloween ’78 so scary is how much of the story was left to the imagination. Myers is referred to as The Shape. We get only a few minutes of vague backstory. We have no clue why he’s a murdering maniac or why he seems unstoppable. Most of all, why is he so fixated on Laurie Strode? Filmmakers could’ve just said he’s obsessed because she was the ‘one that got away,’ but alas they decided in Rob Zombie’s 2009 Halloween II to explain Myers motivation is that he shares a psychic connection with Strode.
Wait, what? Then why did he kill his sister, the school bully and his mom’s abusive boyfriend? Or what about all those people on Halloween with no connection to Strode? For that matter, why would a psychic connection with someone lead one to become a murderer in the first place? The motivation and backstory for Myers makes no sense and, really, never needed to be given.
1. Saw (2004)
2004’s Saw is an iconic horror classic, introducing us to an equally iconic villain: Jigsaw. For most of the movie we are left to guess who the killer is and why he or she has gone to such lengths to torture and kill. The kills are all so brutal and elaborate. Who would do this? Why? As the story builds, we finally get an answer. The killer had cancer, which gave him a renewed love for life. He felt the only way for others to experience this too, is for them to also nearly have their lives taken.
Wow, ok, you know, maybe next time let’s go for a hike instead. I mean, sure, we all could use a renewed lust for life, but did I really have to saw part of my leg off to get there? Seems like there are much easier roads to that destination.
What are some of your favorite horror movies with terrible premises? Join the conversation in the Nightmare on Film Street community over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!