TV Review: Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel (Netflix) – Documentary

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel aired on Netflix in February 2021 and is directed by Joe Berlinger (Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes). The documentary series chronicles the mysterious disappearance of Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel in 2013, whose final moments, which were caught on the hotel’s lift CCTV, ignited a media frenzy and mobilized a global community of internet sleuths eager to solve the case.

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TV Review: The Ripper (Netflix) – Documentary

The Ripper is a true-crime series directed by Jesse Vile and Ellena Wood that was released on Netflix in December 2020.

The four-part miniseries recounts the events and investigation surrounding the murders of 13 women that took place in West Yorkshire and Manchester between 1975 and 1980.[2] It would eventually be determined that these incidents were inextricably linked by the man carrying out the killings- English serial killer, Peter Sutcliffe.[2] Dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper by the press, journalists were taken with the similarities to the murders conducted by the notorious Jack the Ripper and used the name to spark interest in the public. This series follows the chronology of events and is told through interviews with investigators, journalists, survivors, and family members of victims.

For five years, between 1975 to 1980, the Yorkshire Ripper murders cast a dark shadow over the lives of women in the North of England. 13 women were dead and the police seemed incapable of catching the killer. No one felt safe – and every man was a suspect.

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TV Review: Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (Netflix) – Documentary

Based on the 2016 book of the same name by James Patterson and released on Netflix in May 2020, the four-part documentary, Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, explores the crimes of the wealthy convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein and exposes a sex-trafficking ring of powerful enablers leading up to his 2019 arrest. It features interviews with several survivors and former staff members and former police chief Michael Reiter, a key individual from the first criminal case against Epstein.

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Documentary Review: Beware The Slenderman (Sky Crime)

A 2016 HBO documentary film directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky, currently on Sky Crime, Beware the Slenderman is a documentary about the 2014 true-crime story of when two 12-year old girls (Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier) attempted to murder one of their friends, stabbing her 19 times, in an attempt to appease Slenderman, a fictional monster from a horror website. Shot over 18 months, the documentary contains interviews with the families of the two would-be murderers and plunges deep down the rabbit hole of their crime and the effect that the internet can have on society’s most impressionable consumers of media.

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TV Review: Cursed Films (Shudder) – Season One

From writer and director Jay Cheel and a Shudder original series, Cursed Films is a five-part documentary series which explores the myths and legends behind some of Hollywood’s notoriously cursed horror film productions, including The Exorcist, The Omen, Poltergeist, The Crow, and Twilight Zone: The Movie. From plane accidents and bombings, the rumoured use of human skeletons on sets, to stunts going tragically wrong, these stories are legendary amongst film fans and filmmakers alike. But where does the truth lie?

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Documentary Review: Tiger King – Murder, Mayhem and Madness (Netflix)

Released on Netflix in March 2020, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is a true-crime documentary about the life of Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, popularly known as Joe Exotic, a mulleted, gun-toting polygamist and country-western singer. The documentary focusses on the deeply interconnected society of the stranger-than-fiction world of big cat owners, which also includes Joe’s biggest rival, Carole Baskin, owner of Big Cat Rescue, who accuses Joe of abusing and exploiting wild animals and threatens to put them out of business. The rivalry eventually leads to Joe’s arrest for a murder-for-hire plot, as the documentary reveals a twisted tale where the only thing more dangerous than a big cat is its owner.

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Documentary Review: The Jinx – The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (Sky Crime)

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst is a 2015 HBO documentary about New York real estate heir Robert Durst, who, after being acquitted for one murder on the grounds of self-defence, is accused of murdering two others: his first wife, who disappeared in New York in 1982, and his longtime friend, who was killed in California in 2000. He has, however, yet to be convicted of either.

The documentary is directed by Andrew Jarecki who previously directed the Ryan Gosling-led 2010 film All Good Things which was inspired by Durst’s biography. After the film’s release, Durst professed admiration for the film and telephoned Jarecki, offering to be interviewed. Despite having never previously cooperated with any journalist, Durst sat with Jarecki for more than 20 hours over several years. The documentary then gained widespread exposure when Durst was arrested on first-degree murder charges, the day before its finale aired.

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Documentary Review: The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez (Netflix)

Directed by documentary filmmaker Brian Knappenberger, The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez is a 2020 Netflix miniseries about the 2013 murder of Gabriel Fernandez, an eight-year-old boy from Palmdale, California, who endured prolonged abuse by his mother and her boyfriend. The documentary series offers an inside look at the trial, as well as an eye-opening investigation into the government systems that failed to protect Gabriel despite multiple reports and warning signs.

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Documentary Review: Tell Me Who I Am (Netflix)

Directed by Ed Perkins, Tell Me Who I Am tells the story of when 18-year-old Alex Lewis wakes up from a coma after surviving a motorcycle accident to a world that he doesn’t remember. He has forgotten everything: his home, his parents. He can’t even remember his own name. The only thing he does know is that the person sitting next to him is his identical twin brother, Marcus. Alex relies on Marcus to to give him his memory back; to tell him who he is. But the idyllic childhood Marcus paints for his twin conceals a dark family secret. Now, after decades of hiding the painful realities of their past, Alex and Marcus go on a journey together to face the truth and finally discover who Alex really is.

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Documentary Review: The Innocent Man (Netflix)

The Innocent Man is an American true-crime documentary television series based on John Grisham‘s 2006 book The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town which debuted on Netflix in December 2018. The series follows the true story of a small-town justice gone terribly awry, revolving around the conviction of former major league star Ron Williamson from Ada, Oklahoma for the murder of a 21-year-old cocktail waitress named Debra Sue Carter in 1982. The crime wasn’t solved for five years, when Ron Williamson and his friend Dennis Fritz were finally arrested and charged with capital murder. Ron Williamson was sent to death row. But the reasons why were never clear. With no physical evidence, the prosecution’s case was built on junk science and the testimony of jailhouse snitches and convicts. The book details the facts around the case up until 1999 when, after serving 11 years on death row, Ron was exonerated by DNA evidence by the Innocence Project and released from prison.

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Book Review: The Innocent Man

“This is not a problem peculiar to Oklahoma, far from it. Wrongful convictions occur every month in every state in this country, and the reasons are all varied and all the same—bad police work, junk science, faulty eyewitness identifications, bad defence lawyers, lazy prosecutors, arrogant prosecutors.”

Written by John Grisham, The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town is a 2006 non-fiction book based on the true story of a small-town justice gone terribly awry. The case revolves around the conviction of former major league star Ron Williamson from Ada, Oklahoma for the murder of a 21-year-old cocktail waitress named Debra Sue Carter in 1982. The crime wasn’t solved for five years, when Ron Williamson and his friend Dennis Fritz were finally arrested and charged with capital murder. Ron Williamson was sent to death row. But the reasons why were never clear. With no physical evidence, the prosecution’s case was built on junk science and the testimony of jailhouse snitches and convicts. The book details the facts around the case up until 1999 when, after serving 11 years on death row, Ron was exonerated by DNA evidence by the Innocence Project and released from prison.

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Documentary Review: Three Identical Strangers (Channel 4)

Aired in February 2019, Tim Wardle‘s documentary Three Identical Strangers follows three young men in 1980s New York, who were all adopted as six-month-old infants to separate parents in 1961. One day, they meet each other and find out they’re triplets who were separated at birth. But their quest to find out why turns into a bizarre and sinister mystery.

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TV Review: Louis Theroux – The Night in Question (BBC Two)

Aired on BBC Two in March 2019, The Night in Question sees Louis Theroux head to a number of US college campuses and come face-to-face with students accused of sexual assault. At the start of this journey, Louis meets a neuroscience major called Saif Khan, who has been accused of raping a fellow student. His university is investigating the claims separately, even though Saif has been found not guilty in a court of law. Louis also meets young women whose claims of sexual assault have previously fallen on deaf ears, but whose experiences are a powerful reminder that there is now a broader understanding of what sexual assault looks like.

Rating:

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Documentary Review: Leaving Neverland (Channel 4)

Aired on Channel 4 in March 2019, Leaving Neverland sees the testimonies of two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who, now in their 30s, allege that they were sexually abused as children by the singer Michael Jackson. At the height of his stardom when he was 34 years old, Jackson began long-running relationships with two boys, aged 7 and 10 at the time, and their families. The documentary, directed and produced by the British filmmaker Dan Reed, premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and examines the effects on the boys and their families.

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Documentary Review: The Ted Bundy Tapes (Netflix)

Premiered on Netflix this month, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes is a four-part series by Joe Berlinger that takes a look inside the mind of one of the most prolific serial killers, Ted Bundy. Featuring previously unheard interviews with him on death row and archival footage of those affected by his actions, the documentary forms a searing portrait of the notorious killer who was known for being charming and handsome as much as he was known for being a monster.

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Documentary Review: Abducted In Plain Sight (Netflix)

Premiered on Netflix this month, Abducted In Plain Sight is an American documentary directed by Sky Borgman, which tells the true story of 12-year-old Jan Broberg who was kidnapped in 1974 and again two years later by the same man. Following the accounts of the naive, church-going Broberg family, the film sees their troubling admissions of how they came under the spell of their next-door neighbour and best friend, who turned out to be a deceitful sociopath with a strange obsession with their daughter.

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DVD Review: Room 237

Rating:

Directed by LA filmmaker Rodney Ascher, Room 237 is a subjective documentary that explores the numerous theories about the hidden meanings within Stanley Kubrick‘s film, The Shining. Giving voice to the fans and scholars of a film that continues to inspire debate, speculation, and mystery, even 30 years after its release, the documentary looks at five very different points of view and far-reaching theories from those who have decoded the apparent hidden symbols and messages buried in Kubrick’s classic. Cut into nine segments, each segment focuses on different elements within the film which “may reveal hidden clues and hint at a bigger thematic oeuvre.”

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