What Drives Movie Murderers to Kill? Part One: Europe

Watching the recent film Michael, the ‘Hanekesque’ Austrian chiller in which a paedophile imprisons a 10-year-old boy in a secret room of his house, it occurred to me that films always seem to have sex offenders, serial killers and psychopaths driving bland, non-descript vehicles. It makes sense: such characters would not want to be seen driving anything distinctive, in order to make it more difficult for witnesses to identify their vehicles. But had production designers, art directors and prop masters all got together and decided that serial killers and other movie miscreants should all drive boring cars? I decided to take a look at a selection of films to find out.


Michael (2011)

In Markus Schleinzer’s ice-cold chiller, the Austrian paedophile and prospective child killer plans to dump his young ward’s body in what looks like a French-made Citroen Xsara, probably from the mid-2000s.

Spoorloos, aka The Vanishing (1988)

Michael’s car reminded me of another sinister Citroen fan: the cunning killer from George Sluizer’s 1988 Dutch-Belgian co-production Spoorloos (English titleThe Vanishing), who lures his victims in a red Citroen BX. It obviously served its purpose well: when we meet him a few years down the line, he’s swapped it for a white one.

Das letzte Schweigen, aka The Silence (2010)

Peer Sommer (Ulrich Thomsen), the sociopathic child killer in Baran bo Odar’s superb German chiller Das letzte Schweigen, aka The Silence makes his first kill in the late 1980s, dumping the body with his bright red Audi 80.

Felicia’s Journey (1999)

So far, so non-descript: John Hilditch (Bob Hoskins), the child killer from Atom Egoyan’s Felicia’s Journey, opts for a more distinctive car. Like Hilditch himself, his green 1960s Morris Minor exudes harmless eccentricity, concealing his deadly purpose from the young women to whom he offers a lift, befriending them before killing them.

Frontière(s), aka Frontier(s) (2007)

In America, a family of psychopathic Nazi cannibal rednecks would probably choose a pick-up truck or perhaps a beat-up RV as their preferred mode of transport. Not for the crazed French family who run the guest house in Xavier Gens’ scuzzy torture pornFrontiere(s), who opt for an extremely humdrum Opel Corsa (known in the UK as the Vauxhall Nova).

But so much for European psychopaths. Perhaps next time I’ll look and see what American or Australian killers are driving.

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