Lions, tigers and serial killers – oh my! True crime documentaries have multiplied within the last few years. Almost overnight, Netflix’s “Up next” populated with series about falsely accused criminals, unsolved cases, and heinous killers from Making a Murderer (2015), to Conversations With A Killer: Ted Bundy Tapes (2019), to Don’t F**k With Cats (2020). What makes us so addicted to these types of stories? Perhaps it is our rising sense of justice, perhaps we want to get in the mind of a killer, or perhaps these films are the real adult version of monster movies. It is a pure adrenaline rush filled with shocking revelations, twist endings, and mind-blowing hypocrisies of our blood-thirsty system. Like a gruesome car wreck, we cannot look away. True crime lures us in by making the viewing process a highly involved experiment. As clinical details promulgate, we diligently piece together facts and figures to unravel perplexing mysteries. We become digital detectives and vicarious activists against injustice. It is disturbingly fascinating. It is painfully exhilarating. And ultimately it is control over chaos.
JUST A GUY
Director: Shoko Hara (14min)
Richard Ramirez, a maniac serial killer known as “The Night Stalker”, is infamous for his grotesque crimes – 14 heinous murders, multiple cases of rape, beatings, pedophilia, and satanism. Despite these devilish atrocities, an outpouring of fan girls fell prey to “bad-boy syndrome” and pursued a fierce, sexual attraction to Ramirez. The killer received thousands of love letters, pornographic images, and sultry prison visitors after his capture. Using remarkable puppet and clay animation, director of “Just A Guy,” Shoko Hara sheds light on three women that the Night Stalker collected, just like dolls. Sexually-charged visuals of masturbation and mangled body parts work magnificently to depict this twisted infatuation. Yet, simultaneously, the undeniably beautiful aesthetic and intimate voiceovers depict these women without judgement, as mere humans who simply fell in love.
THE NIGHT STALKER
Director: Tiller Russell (Limited Series)
Compliment “Just A Guy,” by watching The Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer on Netflix – a 4-part limited series that exposes how two dissimilar LA detectives track down and capture the demented, satanic serial killer, Richard Ramirez. The daunting CGI renditions of crime scenes, heartbreaking accounts from survivors, and disturbing real life footage will sweep you into the world of bloodshed and bring you face-to-face with evil. Unlike other serial murderers like Jack the Ripper or Ted Bundy, Ramirez killed and hunted with no patterns or specific targets. Children, men, and even elderly women were all susceptible to his madness. Watch now to figure out how he was ratted out and how the detectives hunted down a disorganized, rancid bloodhound.
For a more detailed look at Night Stalker, check out our review here.
MURDER IN MOBILE
Director: Adam Fischer (23min)
In this short film, a Civil Rights group uncovers a racially-based murder during the segregation era to restore justice for a forgotten man and bring closure for his family. A white man beat a black man to death in 1948, but was never prosecuted. And no one seems to care. Local police destroyed all related evidence. The killer escaped to an unknown location. The authorities are reluctant to help. Watch this story to see how a Northeastern Law Student relentlessly pursues justice 70 years later. An astonishing documentary that penetrates into the world of unpunished criminals, racism, and ultimately, forgiveness and redemption.
THE LAST DAYS OF PETER BERGMANN
Director: Ciaran Cassidy (18min)
This breathtaking 18-minute documentary details the final days of an unidentified, elderly man who meticulously and silently prepares his last act of existence. Through extensive CCTV footage, director Ciaran Cassidy lures us on an eerie account of a seemingly innocent, nameless hotel guest. A chief detective unravels the puzzling details to figure out who this man is, what he was doing with a purple bag, and how he ended up on a beach coastline. This short film reminds us to notice the unnoticeable, care for the loners, and appreciate those we love. The Last Days of Peter Bergmann premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and screened at over 50 festivals. It has won over eight international awards including the IFTA for Best Short Film and Melbourne International Film Festival Award for Best Documentary Short Film
CRIME SCENE: THE VANISHING AT CECIL HOTEL
Director: Joe Berlinger (Limited Series)
Enter the rabbit hole of conspiracy, creepy hotels, and unsolved mystery with this new Netflix docu-series. After a young woman, Elisa Lam, is found dead in a water tank at the Cecil Hotel, more mysterious disappearances and tragedies at the establishment resurface in this skin-crawling production. The show relevantly probes into the problem of homelessness, the dangers of ‘internet sleuths,’ and the importance of mental health awareness. Watch for a spooky ride filled with twists and tumbles at every turn.
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