Queue: Netflix and Kill


For documentary junkies, or for those oddly intrigued by psychopaths, the following HBO documentaries are exactly what your Friday movie nights have been missing. Make sure you’ve saved the number of your freshman year neighbor with the HBO subscription and flat-screen TV, because these films centered around the disgraces of three troubling psychopaths will be hard to forget.

Mommy Dead and Dearest: 4/5

Since birth, Gypsy Rose Blancharde has suffered from a disturbing list of medical conditions. Leukemia, muscular dystrophy, visual impairments, hearing impairments, asthma and brain damage, among other maladies, make her life crowded by frequent surgical procedures and perpetual medical surveillance. Meanwhile, Gypsy’s mother, Dee Dee, inspires the generosity of neighbors and charity organizations with her religious devotion to her daughter’s health. Nearly inseparable and oozing with mutual affection, the pair swells the hearts and sympathies of their community.

When Dee Dee is found brutally murdered in her own home, followed by a graphic Facebook post from Gypsy’s account claiming responsibility for the crime, the town of Springfield, Missouri, is speechless. Facing interrogation at a local police station after the incident, Gypsy rises out of her wheelchair to explain.

The story unfolds, exposing a course of events that eventually lead Gypsy to conspire in her mother’s death, divulging a turbulent tale of lies, abuse, extortion and twisted romance that defies all notion of reason. Only an hour and 22 minutes long, HBO’s Mommy Dead and Dearest packs in enough melodrama to trump every Shakespearean play and episode of One Tree Hill combined.

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst: 4/5

One of the wealthiest families in New York, the Dursts boast a legacy that includes a billion-dollar real estate dynasty and years of philanthropy. But beneath their success lurks a different legacy of a far more insidious nature: a string of deaths and disappearances associated with the family’s oldest son, Robert Durst. First his wife goes missing in 1982, followed by the murders of his longtime best friend and later, his landlord.

Though he slips through the grasp of the law with help from his attorneys, Durst’s mysterious past leaves a permanent foul taste in the mouths of those who remember it. After 15 years of silence, Durst reaches out to filmmaker Andrew Jarecki with an outlandish desire to tell all.

Unlike Mommy Dead and Dearest, which unravels its narrative in an hour-long domino effect, this six-part documentary series draws out the drama slowly. Here is where The Jinx finds its greatest strength: using intricate character development to unveil the truth. Many scenes feature Durst alone, washed in synthetic light and lounged with an air of forced comfort in a hotel room chair. He details stories of a detached and violent life with disturbing ease. As new insights on one of his cases takes hold, however, our main character’s cool demeanor and our understanding of the elusive Robert Durst begin to change.

Tickled (2016): 6/5

After stumbling upon a series of online videos featuring “competitive endurance tickling competitions,” New Zealand journalist David Farrier launches a mission to uncover more about the strange sport. What begins as a lighthearted inquiry into an unusual internet phenomenon slowly spirals into a deep labyrinth of crime, deceit and manipulation.

At the heart of the labyrinth lies an untraceable sociopath with an affinity for watching young men tickle each other, funding every video. With no one else attempting to connect the dots, Farrier tries to piece together a mystery more dangerous and convoluted than ever imagined.

Tickled’s brilliance lies in the film’s effortless capturing of an entire narrative shift. Viewers who watch the documentary first view it as a comedy and then, with the unraveling of new layers of information, it gradually develops into a tense psychodrama. Sometimes, a documentary’s quality suffers when the documentarian becomes a central figure in the plot as the succession of events gravitates more toward the filmmaker’s personal preferences than natural cause and effect. Farrier’s insightful voice and integrity, however, breathe life into a story too nuanced to stand alone. Using the power of his investigative skills, Farrier prompts a compelling exploration into the darkest corners of the digital universe.

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