Is Serial Mom Movie a True Story? What's Real vs. Fake

By Nathan Johnson Posted:
Serial Mom movie wallpaper poster

Despite the inclusion of a "based on a true story" card at the beginning of the film, many fans don't know what is real vs. fake about Serial Mom.

John Waters' Serial Mom was released in 1994 and starred Kathleen Turner as a mother whose deepest, darkest secret is that she was a serial killer.

With the film's popularity rising once again 30 years after its release due to its addition to Netflix, many want to know more about the exact real-life case that it was based on and where the victims, their families, and the murderous mother are today.

Is Serial Mom Really Based on True Events?

Kathleen Turner as Beverly in Serial Mom
Serial Mom

At the beginning of Serial Mom, a title card reads, "This film is based on a true story" and includes another tidbit of information: "No one involved in the true crimes received any financial compensation."

Since nearly every movie loosely based on real events usually includes a "based on a true story" card at the beginning, viewers had every reason to believe that Serial Mom was inspired by or entirely based on a real crime case involving a serial killer.

However, the movie is entirely fake and not based on any real case or occurrence.

Many fans also pointed to the tapes of real-life serial killer Ted Bundy that Eugene finds under Beverly's mattress, which caused even more confusion as to whether those were real recordings. However, those are also fake, with director John Waters providing the voice for Bundy.

In a 2017 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Waters explained the true nature of the film, particularly his motivation behind making it and confirming that it was not based on anything real.

According to the director, Serial Mom is a "satire" of the true crime "genre," and it was made because Waters enjoyed "satirizing" all different genres:

"Every one of my movies is satire of a genre. 'Hairspray' was a dance movie. 'Cry-Baby' was a musical. 'Serial Mom' was true-crime. Each one was satirizing a certain genre."

In another interview with Beverly Cinema, Waters was asked about the cards at the beginning of the film claiming that it was based on a real case.

The director acknowledged that "a lot of people" were under the impression that "it was real," which was, in a way, his intention. He also added that "it was set up to be believable:"

"People really believed it was real – a lot of people. They said, 'Well, what happened to her? Where is she?' It was set up to be believable in a way, and today they might even believe it more because there’s so much of that kind of thing on television. So many true crime things are reenacted."

Are There Any Real Cases Similar To Serial Mom?

There are no real cases that are exactly like the events shown in Serial Mom, but there have been some female murderers and serial killers over the years.

For example, Audrey Hilley was convicted of murdering her husband and attempted murder of her 19-year-old daughter.

It was discovered that Audrey had been giving her husband and daughter arsenic (around 100 times over the normal level, to be exact), which resulted in heavy metal poisoning.

The heavy metal poisoning ended up being the cause of death for Audrey's husband, Frank, and almost killed her daughter, Carol, as well.

It is important to note that Audrey and Frank's son, Mike, was also experiencing symptoms of the stomach flu that seemingly would not go away while at home. However, he moved away to attend a seminary, and they mysteriously disappeared.

It is believed that Mike was also a victim of Audrey's and that she was trying to poison him.

It is impossible to talk about a female serial killer without also bringing up Aileen Wuornos, who is known as probably the most famous female serial killer in American history. Aileen was accused of murdering seven men (and convicted for six of those) while she was performing sex work in Florida.

All of Aileen's victims were killed by the use of a firearm, and, most of the time, they had been shot many times.

Although Aileen was not married and did not have a child to care for, she did still go on a killing spree similar to Kathleen Turner's character in Serial Mom.


Serial Mom is streaming on Netflix.

- About The Author: Nathan Johnson
Nathan is a writer at The Direct where he covers Star Wars, the MCU, and DC news. He joined The Direct in April 2021 and currently writes news and feature articles about all three brands mentioned above, but his main specialty is his knowledge about anything and everything Star Wars.