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March 15, 2010

Midnight Top Five - Ways Jack the Ripper Influenced the Horror Genre

There's little debate that Jack The Ripper is one of the most notorious real world villains of all-time. The fact that we're still talking about him nearly 125 years later, or that people like Dreamcatcher Interactive (shameless plug regarding the links on the sidebar which now include stills and a trailer!) would be making games like Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper (due out 4/20/10 for XBox 360!) confirms that. But what I've been thinking about, as I get into the depths of Midnight Mystery March here at FMWL, is how Jacky Boy's legacy shaped the horror films we see today. Let's have a look, thanks to my latest Midnight Top Five.Fear of the Night - Horror movies, and most horror tales, for that matter, have always been about fear of the evils that come out when the sun goes down. But the case of Jack the Ripper was one of the first high profile events to urge real people not to go outside after dark, to the point of parents using The Ripper as a scare story to keep their children from staying out. If Deputy Dwight/Dewey Riley had been in the Ripper's London, he might have said it resembled The Town That Dreaded Sundown. For my purpose, I choose to refer to the Linda Blair/not-The-Exorcist horror Hell Night and its tagline - PRAY FOR DAY.
The Smart/Scholarly Slasher - The general idea is that The Ripper, due to his precision and apparent knowledge of human anatomy, was a doctor or at least a well-educated man. This is a phenomenon that has grown in horror over the last few decades, particularly through characters like Hannibal Lecter. Other slashers have used med students as killers, and we've also seen characters like TV's Dexter take this to a new level.The Friendly/Seductive Killer - The same line of thinking regarding Jack the Ripper that led to him being thought to be a scholar applies in regard to his ability to appear a seemingly normal, and even attractive person to his victims. This tool was widely used in slasher films of the '80s, particularly in the overuse of the "Oh, it's you. What are you doing here?" moment before death. Some believe Jack was also a fairly seductive man (despite the fact his victims were prostitutes - not exactly the hardest crowd to win over, if ya know what I mean!), and there have been several who've combined the mythology of the Ripper with fictional icons like Lugosi's Dracula who could convince their victims to fall into a trap with a romantic gesture.
Women of Ill-Repute are SOOOOOO Dead - I didn't want to google "prostitutes", so I found an image that refers to the next best thing - sorority girls! (I kid! Greek ladies, you know I love you!) Moving on, one of the most well-known trend in horror is that women are the victims, and it's safe to say that The Ripper was the most famous killer of women known. And how does a woman survive a horror film? By not engaging in whore-like behaviors! This one's too easy, lets move on.Killer and Detective as Celebrity - I tried to find a nice quad poster of Seven to go with this point, but ended up settling for any Generic Morgan Freeman Cop Thriller. As The Ripper tale became a matter of national attention, the public became more and more interested in both the details of the killing and the methods being used to track Jack. The Ripper case is noted as one of the first to use profiling to try to enter the mind of the killer, and Detective Abberline is still a notable name even though he didn't catch Jack - even appearing as a character in last month's The Wolfman remake!

(BTW, if I were in charge of that Wolfman property, I'd have Abberline, after having faced off with The Wolfman, return to London and track The Ripper using his considerable "talents". If you saw the movie, you know what I'm talking about.)

That's a quick look in to how the Jack the Ripper legend has influenced the horror genre. I'm sure I could dig even deeper into the connection, but I'll let you all ponder from this point forward, and leave your thoughts in the comments below. Don't forget to check out Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper in the sidebar, and thanks for joining us as we move forward through Midnight Mystery March!


forestofthedead said...

Excellent post!

Unknown said...

Terrific post.

The unsolved nature of the Ripper's crimes have made him perhaps the most enduring real life serial killer of all time.

Enbrethiliel said...


Your best list yet!

I Like Horror Movies said...

Very nice and well thought out, ladies of ill-repute never had it worse!