A riveting crime documentary is taking over the weekend sitcom binge list! If you agree with us,then immerse yourself in the deep dark world where nothing-from cat videos to suburban grandpas-is cute or innocent. These crime documentaries expertly unravel the depths of inhumanity in humans
It was back in 2015, when ‘Making a Murderer‘ jolted the entire world out of its Obama-era reverence for the US as the nation of freedom and justice. Since then, a motley of crime dramas has shown us the ugly underbelly of American criminal justice system and truly unleashed the crime documentary genre that led has us to where we are in 2021; finding weekly comfort in resolving decades old murder mysteries, from our cosy couches.
Is this voyeuristic obsession with crimes and criminals just an inevitable outcome of an innate human curiosity to fetishly observe the excesses of human behaviour? Or does the agonizing presence of gruesome killers on the loose validate our own (supposed) righteousness in a world-as we know it- crashing around us?
Whatever the answer, crime documentaries are here to stay and Netflix is leading the race by putting up one murder show after another to keep us hooked and spooked. And here are my picks of the best true crime documentaries currently streaming on Netflix that you can binge over the weekend. All of them are docuseries, with multiple episodes, so you can safely go down the dark tunnel of joy and emerge (10 hours later) on the other side with a zombie face. Just another typical weekend – well spent.
1. Crime scene: The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel (2021)
The documentary does a fine job of combining the personal with political. We get to see inside Elisa’s mind via her Tumblr and then jump outwards into the slum streets of LA. There is an episode solely dedicated to the criminal legacy of the Cecil Hotel itself, adding yet another suspicious character to Elisa’s story.
Then there are the usual talking heads reminiscing about the search mission: cops, internet sleuths, press, ghost hunters, LA homeless activists. The documentary does the whole run – panning out from one person’s tragedy to incriminating the entire system-template really well. The end especially, is a poignant reminder of how we, as self appointed detectives, fail to look at the human in the centre, in a serpentine search for a bigger story.
2. Don’t F**K With Cats: Hunting An Internal Killer (2019)
This is THE crime documentary for the internet age, because the sadistic killer here is from the digital space. A cat video gone horribly wrong unfolds a manhunt that begins on the internet with a Facebook group. For the most part of this 3-episode saga, you are led to believe that there is no way this will escalate to the level that it does. The final episode ends up in an international man-hunt involving Interpol, FBI and European law enforcement. Bourne franchise coming to life.
This crime series gives us one of the most messed up human minds – Luca Magnotta will surely rank high on the list of ‘murder show killers with the deadly combo of charisma and sickly deluded mind’, if indeed, such a list exists. For me, Ted Bundy came to mind more than once.
3. The Devil Next Door (2019)
Yup. Yet another crime documentary that has you guessing, ‘did he/did he not?’ right till the very end of its five-episode run. Yet, this one is devoid of the usual suspects – no evidence tampering cops, no district attorneys in bed with county sheriffs, and no commentaries on the plight of ordinary men becoming victims of a rotten justice system. But it still remains a courtroom drama, it is just that the drama is happening in Israel.
The documentary reminded me of ‘The Staircase‘ (also on Netflix), often touted as the ‘Citizen Kane’ of true crime documentaries with its courtroom theatricality and lawyers – devoid of all emotions, fighting more for their egos than for a man’s life. But right at the end, the documentary reveals itself to be more than just that, by, yet again, pointing fingers at the true culprits at play here. After all, it is the system, not an individual, that facilitates the ‘othering’ of humans with tragic consequences.
Hopefully we have sorted you for the weekend. Bask in the therapeutic effects of watching psychopaths, piling bodies and the general craziness of this world we inhabit.
In the mood for more documentaries? Watch this Qandeel Baloch film right now !
Maleeha is based in Lahore and pursuing a bachelor’s degree. She snacks on books, films, cookies and anything artistic under the Lahori hot sun. Her ultimate goal is to get a room of her own and a fixed annual income in her name (as per Virginia Wolf’s recommendation) to write forever, without falling prey to capitalist trappings. You can follow more of her ramblings on Instagram and twitter