In Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, the selfishness seems even more chilling. Henrys murder spree starts with the death of two prostitutes, and it is the lack of significance that Henry gives to those murders that is startling. It would probably be freeing to lose that connection to people, to be in a position where human life means nothing. However, it would also be alien and frightening. That is why movies like Silence of the Lambs have such a tremendous appeal; Hannibal Lecter may have killed many people, but he is clearly capable of forming some level of emotional attachment. He seems so charming and engaging that he turns into the hero of the movie, though his actions do not support that role.
Finally, serial-killer thrillers tap into the basic fear of strangers. Serial-killers are distinguished by the fact that they do not target those close to them. In Copycat, the killer actually goes after the detective in charge of the case, providing the adrenaline rush of an escape from death. In Silence of the Lambs, Clarice is only momentarily in danger, but the serial killers victim is placed in a pit in the ground, in a dangerous and demeaned position.
The fact that she turns the tables on the killer, by abducting his little dog and holding it hostage takes the vicarious scare further by showing that someone could triumph in that situation. Of course, Henry: Portrait of Serial Killer may be the scariest movie of them all, because it portrays Henry sitting in the mall, casually scanning for his next victim; most movie-goers have walked in a mall at sometime, and that scene makes it clear that they were all potential victims.
Serial-killer suspense movies evoke a wide-array of emotions. They challenge the audience to try to understand the serial killer and predict future actions, making people feel intellectually stimulated by the movie. They allow people the vicarious thrill of absolute selfishness, as well as the repulsion such selfishness engenders in a normal person. Finally, they tap into the basic human fear of strangers, and make audience members aware of their own vulnerabilities. Given how many emotions are involved in watching serial-killer suspense movies, their enduring popularity is no surprise..