With so many TV, Internet, on-demand, streaming and other entertainment options presently overwhelming true crime fans, hunting down the best fact-based shows and documentaries to watch can seem like solving a mystery in itself.
To help you out, here are CrimeFeed’s top five picks for 2017’s most compelling true crime programs that combined real life, high tension, and top-notch storytelling into unforgettable experiences.
Forty years after David Berkowitz preyed on a seemingly apocalyptic New York City — first as “The .44-Caliber Killer” and then as “Son of Sam” — ID’s Son of Sam: The Hunt for a Killer electrifyingly plunges viewers deep into the heat, the terror, the madness, and the ultimate unexpected resolution of the case.
With lightning speed that powerfully drives home the mission of those on the murderer’s trail, Son of Sam edits vintage photos and videos together with new and original interviews with cops, reporters, survivors, and other experts on the shooting spree that emerged from the rotten-most core of the Big Apple in crisis and scarred a new meaning into the nickname, “The City That Never Sleeps.” [Investigation Discovery]
2. MOMMY DEAD AND DEAREST
A horrifying brew of child abuse, fraud, false fronts, and wild-eyed insanity stews to a volcanic boil in Mommy Dead and Dearest, director Erin Lee Carr’s feature-length documentary about a hair-raising case of Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy. Then it all erupts forth into murder.
On June 14, 2015, Gypsy Rose Blanchard — who was 24 but looked and acted like a severely disabled child — rose up with Nicholas Godejohn, a boyfriend she met online, and ferociously and fatally knifed her mother, 48-year-old Dee Dee Blanchard. Afterward, Gypsy Rose posted on her Facebook page: “The B—ch is dead!” and fled with Godejohn.
What comes to light from there is the lifetime of suffering to which Dee Dee subjected her daughter, from faking Gypsy Rose’s multiple illnesses to actually making her sick and insisting she undergo wholly unnecessary major surgery.
Mommy Dead and Dearest is a horribly compelling exploration what happens when evil is inflicted on the most vulnerable victims — until the victim comes to believe that evil will, in turn, provide the only way out. [HBO]
Investigation Discovery’s Dating Game Killer vibrantly re-creates the gaudy, hedonistic air of 1978 Southern California, when tall, longhaired, charismatic Rodney Alcala, 25, appeared as one of three bachelor contestants on TV’s bawdy, The Dating Game.
Alcala, who hid his criminal record to get the gig, successfully won a date with bachelorette Chery Bradsaw who, fortunately, got creeped out by her choice and refused to go out with him.
The docudrama fully illuminates Alcala’s lethal charm, which makes it all the more frightening when it’s revealed that, by the time he made it to The Dating Game, this handsome psycho had already slaughtered two women — and would then go on to kill at least five more, with some estimates placing the actual number as high as 130. [Investigation Discovery]
Based on the book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit written by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, the 10-episode first season of Mindhunter introduces the FBI special agents who pioneered serial killer profiling.
Mindhunter also brings on the serial murderers who made the research possible — a frightening, disturbing, but undeniably fascinating bunch that includes Richard Speck (Jack Erdie), Jerry Brudos (Happy Anderson), and most viscerally, Edmund Kemper (Cameron Britton, who delivers the series’ breakout performance — which is saying something). [Netflix]
Between 1989 and 1999, the small upstate New York town of Dryden experienced a shocking onslaught of murder and tragedy that earned it the nickname (to the chagrin of many residents), “Village of the Damned.”
Each episode of Investigation Discovery’s gripping, heartbreaking, head-spinning series by that name delves deep into one aspect of Dryden’s inexplicably horrific decades: the grotesque slaughter an entire family, the kidnapping of a two-year-old girl, the sudden murder of a local football star, the sick slaying of the town’s football coach, and the vanishing of two dearly loved cheerleaders.
Main image: Dating Game Killer [Investigation Discovery]