‘Deep Water’ is a psychological thriller centered around an imploding marriage. To stave off their family falling apart, Vic (Ben Affleck) tolerates his wife, Melinda (Ana de Armas), having a string of affairs. However, jealousy and frustration soon result in Vic making some outrageous claims about having murdered one of his wife’s previous lovers. Things get even more sinister when one of Melinda’s current lovers mysteriously dies.
Over the course of the film, Vic is seemingly involved in multiple murderers or attempts of the same. On more than one occasion, various acquaintances (and even his wife) call him “weird” or “not normal” — a tag the husband gladly accepts. We decided to take a deeper look at Vic’s character and see whether he fits the profile of a serial killer or not. Here’s what we found. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Is Deep Water’s Vic a Serial Killer?
In the film, Vic’s first association with murder comes when he mentions to his wife’s then-lover, Joel, that he (Vic) murdered Melinda’s former “friend” Martin McRae. Joel is sufficiently spooked and soon leaves town. Over the course of the film, the husband is associated with various other murders, but can he be categorized as a serial killer?
An FBI report on serial murder defines serial murder as “a series of three or more killings (…) having common characteristics such as to suggest the reasonable possibility that the crimes were committed by the same actor or actors.” The report points to differences between serial murders and single, double, or triple murders. It also clarifies that, as opposed to mass murder, serial murder requires a “temporal separation between the different murders, which was described as: separate occasions, cooling-off period, and emotional cooling-off period.”
Considering that there is a definite gap of at least a few days between two of Vic’s murders (temporal separation) and that both Charlie and Tony’s bodies are seen floating in water (common characteristics), the husband’s character seems to match some aspects of a serial killer according to the aforementioned definition. The number of murders he commits is explored in the next section.
Looking at specific traits that serial killers have been seen to have, an adapted excerpt from Jack Rosewood’s 2017 ‘The Big Book of Serial Killers: 150 Serial Killer Files of the World’s Worst Murderers’ gives us a few hints. Out of the potential warning signs that many of the world’s most notorious serial killers have, Vic’s character seems to match a couple of them quite closely.
Most notably, characteristics like anti-social behavior, voyeurism, high IQ, not having a consistent job, and troubled family history are all traits that seem to fit Vic to various degrees. However, our hero doesn’t seem to match other attributes like having an affinity to arson and torturing animals (quite the opposite if you take his fascination for snails into account). Then, further aspects, like a history of childhood abuse or substance abuse, cannot be attributed or discounted due to a lack of details about Vic’s past.
Thus, while Vic seems to display some attributes that have been seen in real-life serial killers, there isn’t enough of a parallel to suggest that he has the makings of a serial killer. Combined with his relatively low body count, we can safely say that Vic is not a serial killer.
How Many People Does Vic Kill?
So, just how many people does Vic end up killing? The pianist named Charlie and Melinda’s ex-boyfriend Tony are two that the jealous husband certainly kills, and we see as much depicted on screen. Though Vic spooks Joel by claiming to be a murderer, he doesn’t actually harm Joel, so that doesn’t add to the body count.
Martin McRae, who goes missing sometime before the film opens and is the man Vic takes credit for killing, is eventually discovered shot dead. There is no evidence to suggest that Vic kills McRae, and the murder seems unconnected to the film’s central couple. Finally, Don’s brutal and sudden death as he attempts to escape from Vic after seeing the latter with Tony’s corpse could be partly attributed to Vic. However, considering Don swerves his car to avoid hitting Vic and subsequently drives off a cliff, the death doesn’t really count as murder.
Thus, Vic kills two people in ‘Deep Water,’ and therefore doesn’t seem to be a serial killer (yet!). However, the jealous husband displays an alarming trait that could see him turning into a cold-blooded serial killer. Specifically, the look of release and contentment that comes over Vic’s face after killing Tony is an ominous signal, as is the fact that (unlike Charlie’s murder), he actually premeditates his second murder. Thus, there is a possibility that if he is left unchecked or pushed further (possibly by Melinda), Vic could turn into a full-blown serial killer.
Read More: Is Deep Water Based on a True Story?