The Red Spider screenplay is inspired by a story of two serial killers that terrorized Krakow in the 1960s. The first one, Karol Kot, the only teenage serial killer known to date, inspired the character of Karol Kremer. The other one, the eponymous Red Spider, had more of an indirect influence on the film.
Karol Kot: “Vampire” from Krakow
Karol Kot was a good student, played sports and was kind to his neighbors and at the same time he attempted killing 14 people and succeeded in murdering two: an older woman and a little boy. Press and the police called him The Vampire. The city was crawling in fear, the children had a curfew, and even adults were reluctant to leave their homes after dark. When Kot was arrested, he instantly became a local star. People couldn’t associate him with his horrible crimes. Those who had met Karol Kot at the time, remembered him as a handsome boy
with really good manners, not a monster. Disbelief in him being capable of those awful crimes also had to do with the communist propaganda that claimed that serial killers are products of the western capital society. Before Karol Kot, serial killers were hunted, arrested and convicted in secret. His case was the first public one — naturally for propaganda reasons. The Communist party wanted to show Polish nation how well they are protected. As many other actions carried out by the communists, this one also brought on the opposite effect.
Karol Kot was very talkative and offered a lot of details when officers and prosecutors asked about his murders. He seemed to be very proud of the killings and never regretted them. He said that he wanted to be remembered, to make history and wasn’t bothered by the fact that he had to lose his life in the process. During his trial, Kot was allowed to take his high school final exams. His mental abilities were never questioned, nor was his sanity. Karol Kot was sentenced to death and hanged on May 16th, 1968.
After his death Karol Kot became an urban legend. Marcin Świetlicki, a Krakow-based poet wrote a poem about him. There are some visual artists and painters, who got inspired by Karol Kot’s deeds. Nevertheless the story told in The Red Spider is pure fiction. It’s not a thriller, not a crime film, not even a biopic. The director is more interested in asking the question why someone becomes a killer than giving clear and direct answers. As Luis
Bunuel once said: Revealing a secret is like violating a child: that’s the worst thing you can do.
Lucjan Staniak: “Red Spider”
Lucjan Staniak is the only Polish criminal mentioned in the The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, written by Michael Newton and published in the USA in 2004. In 1967 Staniak was arrested in his apartment at Aleja Wyzwolenia 117 in Katowice after killing and eviscerating 20 women. After every murder he sent a letter to a
local newspaper written with his own blood. The only problem is that there is no Aleja Wyzwolenia in the city of Katowice and there was no Lucjan Staniak. No one knows who made him up and why people believed in this chilling story for almost 50 years. The fictional Red Spider inspired Koszałka to create the character of the Vet. He is a mentor of young Karol Kremer and impresses him with his charisma, courage and cunning.
The Red Spider plays with truth, false and made up beliefs. Choosing the name of the fabricated serial killer for the title of Koszałka’s film is just another element of this game. Who is The Red Spider in the film? The Vet, Karol or maybe Communism? You watch it, you decide.
The Red Spider at Play Poland Fim Festival 2016:
Edinburgh 01.11.2016, 8:45pm, Filmhouse
Aberdeen 07.11.2016, 6:05pm, Belmont Filmhouse
London 26.11.2016, 6:05pm, Clapham Picturehouse