Well, here we are. It’s a new dawn, a new year and, for our UK readers at least, a new lockdown. We’re all desperate for something new to watch, and there’s no denying that crime and serial killers are two grizzly topics that are dominating our screens right now. With this in mind, the Squid has decided to go on a murky journey into the underbelly of crime content, both true and fictional, with a weekly winter segment to keep you warm through lockdown 3.0. You’re welcome.
Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer
Limited series Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer landed on Netflix this month and is not for the faint-hearted. We follow detectives Gil Carrillo and Frank Salerno in this shocking four-part series as they investigate a string of brutal killings, rapes and kidnappings committed by serial killer Richard Ramirez, A.K.A. the “Night Stalker”. Slammed by critics and viewers for being too graphic, the series depicts, in unflinching detail, the terror that Ramirez subjected his known victims to between April 1984 and August 1985. He was infamous for forcing entry into people’s homes, and sometimes subjected them to hours of torture before murdering them. It’s safe to say that this horrific true crime story will make you want to check your doors are locked at night.
The Confession Killer
This puzzling story introduces us to Henry Lee Lucas, a self-confessed serial killer whose apparent rampage saw him admit to a staggering 360 killings spanning from 1960 to 1983. Aside from the sheer volume of the murders it alleged, The Confession Killer focused in on Lucas’s complete willingness to confess to any and all unsolved murders during that period. However, as the Netflix documentary follows the twists and turns of the case, Lucas begins to unravel, and his confessions don’t quite add up any more. When confessing to an apparent killing in Japan, he was asked how he got to Japan, to which he simply replied “I drove”. If this wasn’t enough to raise alarm bells, the filmmakers uncover a wealth of police corruption and accounts from civilians who knew more about the cases than they are letting on. Full of strange twists and turns, The Confession Killer is a fascinatingly dark tale to sink your teeth into during lockdown.
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez
This heartbreaking Netflix documentary follows the shocking murder of Gabriel Fernandez, an eight-year-old boy who met a violent end at the hands of his step-father Isauro Aguirre and mother Pearl Fernandez. The monstrous pair inflicted unimaginable physical and emotional torment on the infant, and the doc does not hold back when describing the horrendous abuse he suffered.
This emotional six-part series provides haunting accounts from investigators, teachers and family members who, despite pleading to the authorities for months, had their claims of abuse dismissed. They were unable to prevent the death of young Gabriel, who had been abandoned by the very system that was in place to protect vulnerable children. Four social workers are arrested along with the two parents. The series goes on to document the court case and sheds light on the holes in the system that allowed a little boy to be tortured for months until he was beaten to death for not picking up his toys. It’s a heavy watch, but you feel compelled to sit through it in order to honour Gabriel, who finally had a voice and at long last was being listened to.
Based on a true story, ITV series Des took the nation by storm in September 2020. This chilling three-part drama introduced us to Dennis Nilsen (played by David Tennant), and laid out the true story of The Muswell Hill Murderer (A.K.A. Des). A seemingly average man from North London, Nilsen murdered at least 12 young men between 1978 and 1983. He lured his unsuspecting victims back to his flat, where it’s documented that he would then kill them by strangulation, sometimes accompanied by drowning. The serial killer and necrophile was arrested in 1983 and convicted of six murders and two attempted murders, but it is widely recognised that there may be many more undiscovered bodies. The series shocked viewers and led to many Ofcom complaints, not least about his onscreen chain-smoking. We feel that maybe the discovery of rotten flesh clogging the drains would be the thing to focus on, but hey, that’s just us!
Social media horrors are starting to make a name for themselves, and we’re not complaining about it. Whilst Spree (directed by Eugene Kotlyarenko) is not officially based on a true story, it does hint at a reference to the 2016 Uber driver and mass murderer Jason Dalton. Spree undoubtedly earns an honourable mention in this list after scoring a respectable 65% on Rotten Tomatoes. The multi-angled flick is easy to watch, with some pretty gripping scenes, and is fast becoming a Netflix favourite. Kurt Kangle (Joe Keery, Stranger Things) is a desperate social media “influencer” determined to go viral, and finds the means to do so in the darkest ways. The social commentary throughout makes you assess your own relationship with social media. Plus, the kill scenes are pretty wild. Admittedly it isn’t a series, but it certainly caught our attention and will definitely make us think twice about the next taxi we order…
If you haven’t seen your favourite crime show listed here, fear not! We will be delving into the dark world of utterly binge-worthy crime content every week here on Vampire Squid, so stay tuned. Just don’t blame us if you start sleeping with the lights on!