During the nineties there was a boom in thrillers based around serial killers. Mostly spurning from the success of The Silence of the Lambs in 1991, the genre went from crazy babysitters (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle), obsessed room-mates (Single White Female) to re-enacting the deadly seven sins (Se7en). However one of the more underrated and brilliant crime thriller of that decade was Copycat starring Sigourney Weaver. Not only is this film frightening, but it incorporates true murder cases and shows our protagonist as agoraphobic. If a killer is chasing you how would you escape them if you can’t leave your house?
The film starts with Dr Helen Hudson (Sigourney Weaver), a respected expert on serial killers, giving a guest lecture on criminal psychology at a university. After the lecture she is attacked and almost killed by a former serial killer, Daryll Lee Cullum (Harry Connick, Jr.), she worked on. Because of this she becomes agoraphobic and hides inside her technology laden house, refusing to work on serial killer cases again
Thrust back into the situation she fears the most …
When a new serial killer starts rampaging through the city police detectives M.J. Monahan (Holly Hunter) and her partner Reuben Goetz (Dermot Mulroney) bring her on to solve the bizarre murders. However not is everything it seems and Hudson sees herself being embroiled in a cat and mouse game with a killer that knows her far too well.
The film works best through its contrast of the detectives and Hudson. Already a strong, female role model, Hudson has been beaten and pushed to the limits. Thrust back into the situation she fears the most she slowly starts to exert her authority again, often clashing with Monahan, the strong and confident woman in charge of the investigation. Mulroney’s character brings a sense of warmth and romance into the film and after a tragedy mid-way through, only then does Weaver’s character start to fight back.
…make the film laughable in certain scenes…
The narrative is at times complex and draws on situations of real serial murders; this enforces the credibility of the story and keeps the audience gripped as to the outcome of the story. The only criticism I can find is that like many films this is definitely set in the nineties. Retro ‘up to date’ computers make the film laughable in certain scenes, but luckily these are far and few between.
The soundtrack of the film is in a word stunning and helps to highlight situations. Although sweet and calm, the score explodes into tense and frightening moments. Although the soundtrack is out of print now it’s a perfect example of the nineties crime score and you will find that few recent films deliver such a poignant and beautiful accompaniment to the action.
After The Silence of the Lambs, many killer thrillers were panned as a re-hash, riding on the back of Silence’s success, however Copycat stands out as a clear contender of thriller of the nineties. The 2000s brought in a bunch of mediocre attempts at the genre and maybe that’s why the thriller has declined in past years, but if you want a slice of golden scary viewing head back to 1995 and join Weaver being scared of everything outside of her house.
Images courtesy of Warner Bros