Is there such a thing as too much interest for serial killers? According to mental health professionals, the answer is yes. There is paraphilia called Hybristophilia. This big word means “having an intense attraction to those who commit crimes.”
I would not say we are all hybristophiliacs, but we sure are interested in serial killers. There is even a new movie about this phenomenon. Pascal Plante’s fictional “Red Rooms” focuses on a fashion model and poker pro fascinated with a man on trial. He is accused of killing women and broadcasting the crime via the internet. The movie won four prizes at the Fantasia Film Festival, including Best Film. Not even the Art House is safe from them.
Extreme criminal behavior is what entertainment is made of because it is so foreign to our day-to-day lives. It works just as well when it deals with a mass murderer of a single violent criminal act. This blog is a safe space, so we will not judge your interest. Heck, we indulge in one of those thrillers from time to time. Popflick has its share of murder mysteries and serial killer documentaries in its library.
Here are a few titles that might catch your fancy.
It was the fall of 1888. In a gritty district of East London known as Whitechapel, a murderer targeting prostitutes sowed panic in the streets. The bodies were found with severed throats and minus some internal organs. Authorities dragged their feet for a while - the poverty of the victims fed into their indifference - until the newspapers caught on to the story and turned it into a phenomenon, the first media frenzy of Victorian London. Mick Priestly, author of the book “Jack the Ripper: One Autumn in Whitechapel” tells the story of the infamous killer over moody, atmospheric recreations of the period. Sure, there is a spoiler in the title “The Unsolved Killings of Jack The Ripper.” The crimes remain unsolved, and Jack, whoever he was, never met justice. But still, this engaging story has the power to fascinate.
Not to be outdone, America had its own "Jack the Ripper" a few years later. The main difference is that this terrifying criminal was caught and paid for his crime. "H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer" was a wealthy businessman, a medical doctor, and a reputable member of society in late XIX Century Chicago. As the city welcomed 20 million visitors to the World's Fair, Holmes would rent rooms in his mansion to visitors from out of town, each one a potential victim. He would lure them to his "castle," its elegant facade hiding a maze of sound-proof torture chambers with chutes to send bodies down to the basement and a crematorium. At times, Holmes would dissolve corpses in bats of acid. Ever the entrepreneurial American, he would sell the skeletons of his victims to medical schools around the country. Some experts dispute Holmes's categorization as a serial killer, profiling him as more of a prolific criminal with a long rap sheet that includes murder, fraud, and stifling creditors. Still, he is reputed to have killed at least 27 persons. This tight, 1-hour documentary retells the story with numerous archival images and insights.
On Monday, August 5, 2002, two little school girls went missing in Soham, taking England by storm. A complex police investigation ended with the tragic discovery of their two bodies in the countryside, mere miles from their homes. Years after the event, this hard-hitting documentary reconstructs the story, takes measure of the shortcomings of the small-town police force, and sorts out the killer's motives. Plenty of archival reporting and interviews with pathology experts and journalists make for a fascinating crime documentary. "The Soham Murders" is a haunting story about innocence betrayed.
On September 4, 2002, in the small town of Great Bend, Kansas, two women were preparing to close the small Dolly Madison Bakery and take a well-deserved rest. They never made it home. Later that night, a delivery man found Mandi Alexander and Mary Drake's lifeless bodies in the back of the store. The front door was locked, and the register still had the money from the daily sales. Incredibly enough, nobody passing at rush hour by the busy intersection where the bakery is located saw anything.
The authorities were never able to find the killer. Twenty years later, filmmaker Aaron Mull, who grew up in the area, sets out to find out what went wrong in the investigation and perhaps find out who committed this murder. If you are haunted by a crime you see on TV, imagine living with something that happened in your neighborhood. "The Dolly Madison Murders" captured the fascination of Great Bend and the world.
Lieutenant Wesley Van Dorn died on January 8, 2014. The helicopter he manned caught fire and crashed in the sea off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia. Alas, his death was not the result of technical malfunction or human error. The CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter was considered outdated equipment, with the military dragging its feet - and counting pennies - not to retire it and shoulder the expenses of providing new air vehicles. By the time Van Dorn went down, this particular helicopter model had been involved in many incidents that took many soldiers' lives. This documentary by Zachary Stauffer treats the death of Van Dorn as a crime to be solved, where the responsible is not a psychotic loner but an institution derelict on its duty to protect its charges. There are no easy answers to the question, "Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn?"
As far as serial killer documentaries go, this might be a stretch. Still, this one single man has nothing on mass murderers. But how does guilt spread in a corrupt system that involves many people as decision-makers, executioners, and accessories? How long can - or should - criminal responsibility last? All these heady questions come to mind as you witness this documentary by Matthew Shoychet. He follows the trial of Oscar Groning, one of the previous SS veterans taken to court in Germany.
Known as “The Accountant of Auschwitz,” Groning was an accountant barely in his twenties, deployed to the sinister extermination camp. His first mission was to count and organize the money taken from the Jewish prisoners before killing them in the gas chambers. In 2015, he faced charges of being an accessory in the murder of 300,000 persons, most of them Hungarian Jews murdered in the summer of 1944. The frail elderly man you see in court is not necessarily innocent until proven guilty. The movie includes the testimony of concentration camp survivors, law enforcers, and Jewish American lawyer Alan Dershowitz.
The personalities of two former baseball players clash as they traverse the rural back roads of a post-plague New England teeming with the undead.Stream Now
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