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As Halloween gets closer and closer, the interest in true crime media has picked up speed once again. After the roaring success of Tiger King in March, people want to wet their appetites with more stories of murder and mystery. Be warned, unlike Tiger King, these five suggestions will not be for the faint of heart. There are graphic descriptions and imagery within all of these documentaries. Without further ado, here are five Netflix true crime titles to get yourself in the spooky mood.
American Murder: The Family Next Door
Netflix’s newest true crime release is a ninety minute documentary from filmmaker Jenny Popplewell. The documentary details the story of the Watts’, the typical Facebook-posting family next door. Things seem hunky dory, until the mother Shanann and her two children mysteriously disappear, leaving the father Chris to answer questions. As we look into the life of the family, we quickly realize that, behind closed doors, everything was not as happy as it appeared to be.
This documentary is a roller coaster ride. Even if you are familiar with the case, it is worth watching for the sheer amount of footage that was caught on camera. Everything from the initial house search all the way to the final shocking confession was filmed by law enforcement. Shanann’s Facebook is also a treasure trove of clues to how this perfect family fell apart by the seams. Popplewell’s goal with the film was to give Shanann and her children their voices back after the sensationalized crime swept the media. The brutal hour and thirty minutes that come from this doesn’t waste any time in fulfilling this goal. If you love true crime documentaries, but don’t have the time to sit through a series, American Murder: The Family Next Door is perfect for you.
Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez
I’ve never been a personal fan of football, when my family gets together to watch on Thanksgiving, I usually find myself in the corner desperately trying to understand what is going on. I’m much more of a basketball fan, but even with my lack of interest Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez gripped me from the start.
Aaron Hernandez seemed to have it all. He was in a forty million dollar contract with the New England Patriots, one of the most successful teams of all time. Being the youngest player in the NFL when the 2010 season began, Hernandez was a star. He scored 24 touchdowns and had 2,237 regular-season receiving yards with his offensive partner Rob Gronkowski. He was also engaged and expecting his first child when he was, to everyones surprise, arrested for first degree murder. Even more shocking, the man he had killed, semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, was dating Shaneah Jenkins, the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee Shayanna Jenkins. Upon the discovery of Lloyd, Hernandez was also charged with killing Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado in a drive-by shooting in 2012. He was let go from the Patriots and given a life sentence. Shortly after being acquitted of the murder of Abreu and Furtado in 2017, Hernandez committed suicide in prison.
Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez deftly explores the why of this situation. Interviewing childhood friends, family, and others we get a deeper look into the tortured mind of a man who had a lot of expectations riding on him. The pressures of football and what it means to be a man in this country are also touched on. Sexuality, in-game concussions, and toxic masculinity all play their own parts in the demise of this American hero.
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez:
The most brutal of the documentaries I am recommending, The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez, will shake you to your core. If you are disturbed by violence against children, then this might be one you want to skip. The documentary tells the harrowing tale of Gabriel Fernandez, who at the age of eight was murdered by his mother and her boyfriend. The shocking part comes from just howGabriel died. Sickening extended torture and abuse that was contionously ignored by government officials is explored in this documentary series. You will find yourself floored and angry upon finishing the six episodes.
Although not spooky in the same way my other recommendations are, The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez is terrifying in a whole other manner. Seeing just how far abusive situations can go if they are not stopped is truly disturbing. The documentary also highlights the heroes who worked tirelessly to make sure Gabriel’s voice was heard even after his death. It touches on the very best, as well as the very worst of humanity and how our humanity reflects in the way we treat children. The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez recalls the story of a broken system and how it especially failed one innocent boy.
Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes
You may have seen Zac Efron take on the role of serial killer Ted Bundy in Joe Berlinger’s film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, however, before the fictional account of Bundy’s crimes premiered on Netflix, Berlinger made a documentary counterpart. Sometimes reality can be scarier than a fictional retelling. This in-depth look at Bundy’s psyche comes from tapes recorded between Bundy and two journalists. The tapes create a concise timeline for Ted Bundy’s thirty murders, which he committed across seven states. It doesn’t just stop with the capture of Bundy either. There were several successful escape attempts, a media circus trial (where Bundy represented himself), and thousands of adoring female fans for the serial killer. The story seems too crazy to be real.
Conversations with a Killer is one of the closest looks at a serial killer I’ve ever seen. Hearing Bundy’s own thoughts about the murders is downright chilling. Despite being unassuming on the outside, the documentary paints a picture of Bundy’s distressed inner demons. It proves that you can never judge a book by its cover.
Unsolved Mysteries has been a staple on our television screens since 1987. Thirty-three years later, Unsolved Mysteries makes its return on Netflix. The show details grizzly true crime cases that have never been solved. Featuring re-enactments, narration, and interviews, each episode takes an in-depth look at a mysterious unsolved case. The Netflix revival is much more grounded, but still delves into wildly different stories.
The great thing about watching Unsolved Mysteries is that every person will have their own favorite episode. With six unique episodes to choose from, you can watch them in order, backward or scattered. My personal favorite was episode five, “Berkshires UFO,” which dove into an insane sighting of aliens that only one small town experienced. If my other suggestions make you a bit squeamish then Unsolved Mysteries is a great place to get your true crime fix without giving you nightmares.
Kelly Levine is a screenwriting student at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and an intern at AfterBuzz TV. She hopes to one day pursue a career in television writing and production. Kelly loves television, movies, and all things nerdy in pop culture!
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