In past Octobers, I have explored the “librarian as nightmare” archetype (2011); killer librarians (2012); librarians as villains or victims in horror films (2013); and librarians in horror films (2014). I have also analyzed a serial killer librarian in the indie film Chainsaw Sally, and I included “serial killer” in my post last year about notable additional occupations for reel librarians. This year, I thought it appropriate to collate all the serial killer librarians I’ve mentioned before into one post.
Defining “serial killer”
But first… let’s delve into what “serial killer” really means.
I hadn’t realized before how many several different definitions exist! This Psychology Today blog article, “What defines a serial killer?,” highlights major, differing understandings of this term:
- FBI definition: “According to the FBI, a serial killer is someone who commits at least three murders over more than a month with an emotional cooling off period in between.” The FBI also calls it “serial murder.”
- National Institute of Justice definition: “The National Institute of Justice provides a definition of serial killing that is closer to the common conception. According to them, it involves committing two or more murders with a psychological motive and sadistic sexual overtones. On this conception, serial killing can be understood as a type of sex crime.”
- Federal law: A 1998 federal law, Protection of Children from Sexual Predator Act of 1998 (Title 18, United States Code, Chapter 51, and Section 1111), also linked sex with serial killings and defined it this way: “The term ‘serial killings’ means a series of three or more killings, not less than one of which was committed within the United States, having common characteristics such as to suggest the reasonable possibility that the crimes were committed by the same actor or actors.”
The Psychology Today article rightly points out problems with each definition, as sex isn’t always linked with serial murder, particularly with female serial killers and/or serial killers who suffer from some other kind of psychosis.
Therefore, I’m using a more expansive definition of “serial killer” to highlight reel librarian serial killers.
Also, potential spoilers ahead!
Chainsaw Sally (2004)
- The title role in this indie film is the reel librarian — and as expected, she is ruthless with a chainsaw!
- She kills several people in the course of the film, including:
- a man who who talks loudly in the library
- a young woman who never returned a library book she had checked out
- another young woman working at an ice cream truck who misspells a word on an order form
- Her reason for killing seems to be about punishing people who break rules
- The film also links Sally’s psychosis and dual personality to childhood trauma, when her parents were murdered in front of her and her brother
- Want more? On this blog, I have analyzed Chainsaw Sally in this “Little miss serial killer” post (2013); revisited and expanded on that original post in this “Revisiting favorites | Serial killer librarian” post (2016); and paired her up with Conan the Librarian in UHF in this “Conan the Librarian and Chainsaw Sally” post (2017).
All About Evil (2010)
- A “mousey librarian” (played by Natasha Lyonne), inherits a movie house. To save the family business, she provides her own victims in order to make her own “snuff films.”
- I have not yet analyzed this film, so I’m not sure if the film goes into more detail about the reasons why the reel librarian turns to killing. If you have seen this film, please leave a comment below.
- Want more? I included this film in my “Killer Librarians” post (2012).
Personals (TV, 1990)
- Brunette librarian with glasses by day, a blonde lady killer by night!
- Jennifer O’Neill plays Heather, a librarian who lures men through newspaper personal ads in order to murder them on the first date.
- A knife is her weapon of choice.
- Her crimes are outwardly sexual in nature, and she relays fantasy sex dreams to her therapist
“Personals/City Killer promos & USA Network ID, 1989” video uploaded by Chuck D’s All-New Classic TV Clubhouse, Standard YouTube license
The Church (1989)
- Italian horror film, also known as La Chiesa, directed by Michele Soavi and written and produced by Dario Argento
- Evan (played by Tomas Arana), a librarian cataloging a series of historical texts in an old church, removes a rock in the catacombs — thereby unleashing an ancient evil hidden underneath! Evan becomes possessed by a demon, and goes on a killing spree.
- Since the underlying reason goes back to being possessed by a demon, I’m assuming this reel librarian would not be held responsible for his actions. But maybe do a little more research before removing things in catacombs next time, eh, librarian?
- Want more? I included this film in this “Killer librarians” post (2012), and on my Foreign Films page.
- A rare comedy that includes a skit about a serial killing reel librarian, “Conan the Librarian” (hilarious!)
- Conan the Librarian cuts one patron in half for returning a book late, and he starts to choke another patron because he dared to ask where some books were in the library
- We only see “Conan the Librarian” technically kill one patron — slicing the patron in two with his sword — but from this short scene, I think we can infer a pattern of serial murders. I’m sure there are more bodies amongst the stacks!
- Violent toward people who break the rules or don’t know the library system
- Want more? I analyzed the film in this “He’s… Conan the Librarian” post (2011), and played matchmaker with Chainsaw Sally in this “Conan the Librarian and Chainsaw Sally” post (2017).
“UHF (9/12) Movie CLIP – Conan the Librarian (1989) HD,” uploaded by Movieclips, Standard Youtube license
Potential serial killer?
- In Wilderness (1996), a British mini-series that was also released in a condensed version, a reel librarian (played by Amanda Ooms) is convinced she turns into a wolf. Has she left a trail of mutilated bodies in her wake? Is it real, or is she hallucinating?
- Zodiac (2007): This past year, I have analyzed the David Fincher film Zodiac, a film which goes in depth into the search for the Zodiac serial killer (another serial killer who did not necessarily kill for sexual reasons, but rather for power and the ability to cause mass fear and hysteria). There is no librarian seen in that film, but the power of library books plays a vital role in the investigations.
- The Killing Kind (1973): The reel librarian in that film fantasizes about nightmares — or as she calls them “hallucinations, they’re so real.” She fantasizes about killing her father, among others. You can read more about this reel librarian in this “The Killing Kind vs. The Attic” post (2013).
- Killer Movie (2008): A reel librarian is a potential suspect in this horror film littered with bodies. You can read more about this reel librarian in this “Killer Movie, Scary librarian” post (2011).
- From a Whisper to a Scream (1987): The films opens on a woman being executed by lethal injection; we later find out she’s a serial killer who’s been murdering people since she was seven years old. A reporter present at the execution (Susan Tyrrell) then drives to Oldfield to interview the woman’s uncle, Julian White (Vincent Price). You can more about this film in this “Welcome to Oldfield” post (2014).
- Ghostbusters (1984): In this classic comedy, a reel librarian ghost is not a serial killer, but rather a serial scarer! Read more in this “Who you gonna call?” post (2012), and this “A closer look at the reel librarians in the original Ghostbusters” post (2017).
Any favorites here? Please leave a comment. 🙂