Posts Tagged ‘serial killers’

Britain has long hosted it’s fair share of serial killers: Jack the Ripper, Leather Apron, and Dr. Harold Shipman, to name just a few. Now we have a new entry — the Crossbow Cannibal of Leeds:

A British man who admitted to shooting his prostitute victims in the head with a crossbow before dismembering and eating them was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday, according to several British news reports.

Stephen Griffiths, 40, who called himself “The Crossbow Cannibal,” pleaded guilty to murdering Susan Rushworth, 43, Shelley Armitage 31, and Suzanne Blamires, 36, the U.K. daily Guardian reports.

Griffiths was caught when a building supervisor spotted him in the act on closed circuit television in Bradford, near the city of Leeds, in northern England, the Guardian reports.

“(The supervisor) saw an image of someone on the third floor dragging a person into flat 33,” prosecutor Robert Smith said.

Shortly afterwards, a woman ran from the apartment and fell to the floor, the Guardian reports. Griffiths shot her with a crossbow as she lay on the floor, and dragged her into the flat by a leg.

Griffiths allegedly “toasted” the death by raising a can of drink to the closed circuit security camera, the U.K. daily Telegraph reports.

The killer claims to have been working on a PhD in Criminology. I take it this was a “how to” course of study? Reportedly neighbors referred to him as “the Weirdo.” At least he wasn’t one of those quiet types whom you’d never suspect…

RELATED: Not to be outdone, Philadelphia has just announced its own serial-killer infestation – the Kensington Strangler. (via Gabriel Malor)

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The cast of Criminal Minds

The cast of Criminal Minds

It’s one thing for a character in a movie or TV show to make a mistake that costs them dearly: pick the wrong door, dial the wrong number, or cut the wrong wire, and something bad happens. If no one made a mistake, then the story would never advance – or, if it did, it would be very dull.  So… mistakes happen, and the writer needs for them to happen.

It’s another thing altogether, however, for a writer to take his character from the realm of mistake to that of mind-numbingly stupid in order to advance his story. That is unacceptable; it ruins the tale.

Case in point: The other night, I was catching up on episodes of Criminal Minds, a generally very good series about a team of FBI profilers who ride to the rescue to catch serial killers and mass murderers. My writing partner and I have been following the show with the idea of writing a spec script for it.

The episode in question was titled “Roadkill,” from late last season. The killer murders his victims by running them down with his truck. Not a bad idea; it has kind of a “Christine” vibe to it. Trouble is, in each of the killings we see, the victims have to be unbelievably moronic to advance the story:

  • Victim #1 is caught alone on a narrow rural road, her car broken down. A truck pulls up, and she thinks help has arrived. When she realizes the driver instead intends to run her down, she flees. Up to this point, fine. No problem. Her escape is simple, right? Just run off into the nearby woods where the truck cannot follow her. So, of course, the writers have her run along the road ahead of the truck, eventually meeting her grisly death
  • Victim #2 is caught in a multi-level parking structure. When he realizes the psycho is trying to run him down, does he run into the nearby public stairwell where the half-ton pickup cannot go? Nope. Does he hide behind other cars, using them for cover until he can escape? Nah, that would be too logical. No, this fool runs ahead of the truck down a spiral ramp until he’s crushed against an elevator door.

In both cases, the victims were so dumb that I was left with little sympathy for them. They deserved to die. And the writers deserve to be mocked mercilessly.

The problem with mandated stupidity is that it breaks the suspension of disbelief. Instead of being caught up in the story, the viewer is suddenly shaking his head and asking that famous question, “WTF?” And, as I mention above, you stop caring what happens to the characters. If you don’t change the channel, you keep watching just to see how much worse the cluster-frak before your eyes will get, like watching a train wreck happen in front of you.

And that is a moment of failure as a writer.

Both writers have excellent credits to their names, so how did something this bad get out of the writer’s room? I can only guess there was time-pressure to get the episode shot and in the can to meet the schedule, and that there was no time for an extensive rewrite.  Whatever the reason, Roadkill is a good example for budding writers of what not to do.

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