The Legend of Serial Killers: From Bondi to Pistorius: These True Crime Documentaries Will Never Let You Go
The real crime documentary “The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness” has begun on Netflix, which is about New York serial killer David Berkowitz. But there are some other formats that also allow viewers to delve deeper into the minds of the killers.
They brutally murdered people – yet their crimes are repeatedly captured by series and movies: serial killers like Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson or Ted Bundy seem to work their magic. This can be seen not least from the inflationary diffusion of true crime forms.
Now a “prominent” serial killer is expanding his series of sometimes horrific documentaries delving into the psyche of killers: David Berkowitz. It’s the focus of a new Netflix documentary series, “The Sons of Sam: A Descent to Darkness,” which will go live on Wednesday, May 5th. Introducing the new production – and more advice on true crime trying to shatter the emotional world of serial killers.
“Sons of Sam: Descent into the Darkness” (Netflix)
David Berkowitz caused a stir in the 1970s with six murders and many other atrocities – and was finally arrested in 1977. But did the American really commit his crimes alone? Or is it possible that the self-proclaimed “son of Sam” was part of a larger network? The documentary “Sons of Sam: Descent into Darkness” comes out May 5th.
The four-part production takes the perspective of author Murray Terry, who has been investigating the case for decades. He is convinced that there is a criminal network behind the murders that is much larger than previously thought. He even suspected a diabolical plot behind the cruel deeds. In the series directed by director Joshua Zeman, former investigators and witnesses have now had their say. In addition, old media reports are summarized. Is it possible that Terry is right and there are still killers at large?
“Ted Bundy: Selfie of a Serial Killer” (Netflix)
On the outside, Theodore Robert Bundy, better known as Ted Bundy, looked charming and captivated with his alluring appearance. But the bloody truth is different: Between 1974 and 1978 Bundy was responsible for 30 rapes and murders. In total, he is said to have sent over 100 women to their deaths. Bundy was executed in an electric chair in Florida on January 24, 1989. The astonishing acts were also the subject of a true crime documentary on Netflix that made waves.
“Ted Bundy: Self-Portrait of a Serial Killer” has revealed original recordings of the Ted Bundy tape, in which the serial killer attempts to explain his malicious methods and outlandish inclinations – without a doubt not for the faint of heart. In any case, there was enough material for the documentary: when Bundy was already sitting on death row, the convicted killer was enjoying the light of flashlights. Even a few hours before his execution, the killer was still answering questions from television preacher James Dobson.
Nearly 30 years later, Ted Bundy still tempts people in front of TV with a mixture of disgust and charm. When “Ted Bundy: Self-Portrait of a Serial Killer” was released in 2019, he was sometimes glorified as the “bad boy” — so much so that Netflix became a hit. At the time, the broadcast provider indicated via Twitter that there were enough attractive men on his show – and none of them committed murder.
Pistorius (Amazon Prime)
Athletes are often labeled national heroes after great success – like Oscar Pistorius. The disabled South African athlete, who is revered as a Blade Runner for his prosthetic limbs on the bottom of his leg, won a total of six gold medals at the Paralympics. But the heroic story ended in tragedy in February 2013. On Valentine’s Day, he shot and killed his then-girlfriend, model Riva Stenkam, in their apartment.
Although Pistorius vehemently denied committing the crime intentionally and claimed that he had mistaken Steinkamm as a thief, the court saw the facts differently. At the end of a multiple murder trial, the athlete was sentenced to 15 years in prison for murder with less intent to kill.
Director Vaughan Seville tackles the sensational issue in his Amazon documentary Pistorius. In the four-part production, the athlete is initially honored for his accomplishments on the track – until the action moves to the courtroom. In the true crime documentary, not only relatives of victims and perpetrators have their say, but also forensic researchers and members of the feminist protest movement have their say.
“The Making of a Killer” (Netflix)
Not only was the Netflix production “Making A Murderer” noticed with great interest by viewers in 2015, the true crime documentary also won an Emmys award. In 2016, the producers managed to take four awards with them. The series focuses on Stephen Avery and his nephew Brendan Dacey. The two were convicted of murder and a rapist because they abused and killed young Theresa Halbach in November 2005. But did all go well when the men were sentenced?
The Netflix series by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, which was extended for a second season in 2018, at least cast doubt on that ruling. Fragile evidence, flawed trials, and cops coax confessions from men with promises of reduced sentences: The trial of Stephen Avery and Brendan Dacey was a far cry from its fulfillment according to the book. The Making of the Killer led to controversial debates around the world, all culminating in the question: Guilty or Innocent?
Dark Souls: Conversations with a Serial Killer (ZDFmediathek)
Streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video discovered the potential of true crime formats a few years ago. But public broadcasters have already jumped on the hype train. The documentary series “Dark Souls,” for example, which is available to stream in the ZDF media library, is well worth a watch. In the first episode, “Conversations with a Serial Killer,” journalist Chris Cuomo meets killer Joel Rifkin. In the early 1990s, the American, dubbed “Joel the Ripper” by the American press in reference to the killer Jack the Ripper, was said to have murdered 17 women.
But not only the multi-killer has his say. Relatives also share their view of the atrocities. Furthermore, behavioral analysts and researchers offer their expertise. The goal is to paint as comprehensive a picture as possible and try to establish the background to Rifkin’s horrific crimes.
Born to Kill: Born to Kill? (TVNOW)
TVNOW also appears to see potential in tackling documentary or serial crime. Even the live streaming service RTL talks about a “real crime attack”. The already large collection of titles includes “Born To Kill”. One murder case is retold per episode – always with the goal of being able to understand the perpetrators’ intentions. Among other things, the atrocity in Yosemite National Park, California, was the subject of a true crime orchestration. In 1999, four bodies were discovered in an impressive landscape. Carrie Stetner was eventually identified as the culprit.
The fourth season of “Born To Kill” premiered on TVNOW on May 1. At first, it was focusing on an issue that should be a nightmare, especially for parents of young children. In 1991, an unusual increase in mortality was observed in the pediatric ward of a hospital in Grantham, England. For a long time, you could not understand it until the decisive evidence appeared: when children die under suspicious circumstances, nurse Beverly Alitt was doing her duty.
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The original version of this post “From Bondi to Pistorius: These True Crime Documentaries Will Never Let You Go” comes from Teleschau.