‘The Postcard Killings’ depicts the puzzling investigation that Detective Jacob Kanon finds himself undertaking as he follows the footsteps of a serial killer who has left a trail of victims, including Jacob’s daughter, across European cities. The gruesome staging of the victims’ corpses at the crime scene in an imitation of known art pieces defines the killer’s M.O. alongside a mysterious postcard delivered to a local journalist in town. However, unbeknownst to the authorities, the elusive killer is actually two young individuals, Mac and Sylvia Randolph, trapezing across the continent under the guise of tourism as they plan and execute their perfect crime.
Therefore, given the substantial space these serial killers occupy within the narrative of the film’s crime-driven story, viewers might be wondering if Mac and Sylvia have any connections to real-life criminals. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Fictional Roots and Psychologically Prevalent Motives
No, the serial killers depicted in ‘The Postcard Killings,’ Mac and Sylvia, are not based on real-life criminals. The film is based on James Patterson and Liza Marklund’s 2010 crime fiction novel, ‘The Serial Killers.’ As a result, Mac and Sylvia’s characters are a product of American and Swedish authors’ work. They’re modeled after their literary counterparts, the titular killers from the novel, who themselves don’t have any tangible connections to actual serial killers. Thus, Ruairi O’Connor and Naomi Battrick’s characters in the film remain confined within the story’s fictional borders.
Nevertheless, like any realistic fictional killer, this pair of serial killers also possess a certain realism that allows them to remain grounded despite their outlandish form of violence. Once the plot reveals the killers’ identity, it compels Jacob and his investigative partner, Journalist Dessie Lombard, to inquire into the pair’s past to decipher their next move. As such, the audience gets an exploration of Mac and Sylvia’s childhood under the abusive parenting of their father, Simon Haysmith.
Thus, Mac and Sylvia, originally named Simon Jr. and Marina Haysmith, are revealed to be a pair of incestuous siblings who are committing murders as elaborate and twisted performance art to retaliate against their father. During their childhood, Simon Sr. sought utter perfection from his family and punished anything that differed from his perception of beauty. Consequently, his inhuman rules and reprimandations drove the kids’ mother to suicide.
Furthermore, somewhere at a young age, Simon Jr. and Marina developed a romantic relationship despite their familial connection. As a result, Simon Sr. came down harder upon the kids until the police arrested him on unrelated charges. For the same reason, now in their late teenage/young adult years, the pair of siblings-turned-lovers are killing young married couples. Their depiction of the corpses as artwork from their childhoods is a direct depraved message to their father, signifying their belief that their relationship is valid.
While Mac and Sylvia’s backstory is more complex than most, its roots in childhood abuse and trauma remain reflective of reality. According to the National Library of Medicine, studies show that 26% of serial killers experienced physical abuse, while 50% underwent psychological abuse in their childhoods. As such, an unstable and unhealthy environment during developing years showcased somewhat of a correlation to an individual’s homicidal tendencies.
Likewise, Mac and Sylvia’s inclination toward grasping for public attention also finds a parallel to several known serial killers from history who have previously sought out attention for their gruesome crimes. The most infamous example to come to mind remains that of The Zodiac Killer, notorious for building his own public image during his active years in the 1960s/70s.
Familiar Moniker and Calling Card
Even though Mac and Sylvia have no real basis in an actual serial killer, the pair ends up sharing their nickname, “The Postcard Killers,” and the name’s origin with a real-life individual. In the late 19th and early 20th century, John Frank Hickey, a serial killer known as “The Postcard Killer,” gained public recognition for his horrid homicidal crimes.
Hickey also sent postcards to law enforcement individuals as a way to taunt them about his murders and their inability to catch him. As a result, the man received his serial killing moniker, identical to Mac and Sylvia, through resembling methods. Although the same suggests some connection between Hickey and the two killers from the film, there’s no tangible relation between them.
Read More: Where Was The Postcard Killings Filmed?