I’ve been thinking a bit about horror and the role of fear in entertainment some lately (more to come later this week once I finish reading Drood and processing some insights left over from The Walking Dead) since bad nightmares have generally lead me to avoid art that viscerally frightens me. But one exception in the past couple of years, as I’ve tried to push my own boundaries, is The Devil in the White City. For those of you unfamiliar but seeking to avoid spoilers, it’s the story of an extremely prolific and macabre serial killer who operated during the Chicago World’s Fair. And it is scary.
It’ll be very, very interesting to see what it looks like for Leonardo DiCaprio to play said extremely prolific and macabre serial killer. If the movie sticks to the historical facts of the case, and to the book based on it, it’s going to be an extraordinarily hard role to turn into a sympathetic, or at least understandable to an audience, Hannibal Lecter-type killer. H.H. Holmes may have been charming to his victims, but there’s no particular evidence, at least that I remember, that he was more broadly charismatic, or that he performed any particular act of justice that could counterbalance his crimes. In that case, it’ll definitely be a new step for DiCaprio to play someone almost entirely unsympathetic, even repulsive and horrifying. I’ll be curious to see if he loses weight or wears prosthetics for the role—that’s a famous, and famously attractive face and physique he’ll be committing to new ends.