DVD Review: “Becoming Evil – Serial Killers” series

This seven part documentary series is about as icky as the serial killers themselves. Evil tries for a feel similar to Leonard Nimoy in In Search Of or Robert Stack in Unsolved Mysteries, but the narrator has too much of a sensational vibe, from the mocking tone used when the narrator voices a killers actual words, to the heavy-handed narrative. Example: a pair of killers are said to have “…turned on each other like the animals they were.” It’s a strange niche this series is trying for; too hyperbolic for documentary fans, but not tabloid enough for the more hard core serial killer fan. (I’m glad about that last bit, actually.)
More negative thoughts? I’ve got ’em y’all.

Episodes are sloppily cobbled together, with repetitive, and often gleefully homophobic commentary not by the subject matter experts, but the narrator. Methinks the narrator is closeted AF, or has some sort of discomfort in his own sexually. Ain’t no thing sweetie. Just breathe. Embrace your joy. No judgement in this house.

Except on your heavy handed narration. These stories are salacious enough, no extra “ooh but lookie” required. I’d have liked more focus on the facts – and those interesting researchers who actually know their stuff  – than the supposition and personal viewpoints Narrator Dude trots out. I could almost see the narrator rubbing his hands together in glee over these stories. So I guess this set is for those folks who salivate over gruesome details. My criminology-undergrad ass felt uncomfortable (and bored) as he went on…and on. Dude loves his adjectives.

But there are several well respected criminologists (and other researchers) giving their input. If only the narration didn’t make this series sound like a Geraldo miniseries. The narrator blurts out lots of blanket statements about violence and the media, nature vs nurture… It’d be hard for general audiences/criminology newbies to understand what’s fact and what’s conjecture.

And oh man the inconsistencies. Narrator Dude says the Axe Man of New Orleans is little known, but a criminology expert say he’s famous. Huh? (FWIW, I’ve known about Axe-y long before this series.)

Here are a few highlights lowlights:

Episode 2 – Victims and the Media – bemoans the people forgetting the victims… Yet there’s little actual victimology here, or information about the victims of these killers. Only a look at how just about anyone could be a victim. No kidding y’all. BTW, the sky is blue.

Episode 4 – The Second Wave: America’s Most Notorious Serial Killers – Crime photos feel used for salacious effect. I wanted to shower after this episode, not because the pictures used were vile (though the absolutely are), but because it felt sensational rather than journalistic. Ick.

Episode 5 – Lady Serial Killers – Sisters are doing it for themselves y’all. The most gleefully antagonistic in terms of the narration. Narrator Dude definitely has a problem with women. And yeah, I started profiling the narrator after a while. Gave me something to do besides scream at the screen, and wish the subject matter experts were anywhere but in this series. (#Protip: most of these experts can be found elsewhere. Or just read their books.)

Episode 6 – International Serial Killers – Big focus on Jack the Ripper of course. But nothing anyone interested wouldn’t already know. It’s simplistic Wikipedia 411 to any real Ripperologists, so that entire bit feels like padding. That said, a new idea about the killings from Dr. Dirk Duran-Gibson that focuses on classism is truly fascinating, and shows what this series could have been. (Minute 21 in this episode if you’re interested.)  On the plus side? Interesting bits on how it’s difficult to truly know about or catch serial killers in some countries because of the unwillingness of the country to admit this happens there… But that’s the quick wrap-up commentary in this episode, rather than the jump-off. Pity.

Episode 7 – 21st Century SK / “the new wave” – Condemning films and shows about serial killers? Even with all the research showing no causation? Hmm. Tell me Narrator Dude, do you hate yourself? Because you’re slamming the very thing you’re creating. Do you have a history of abusing animals? Asking for posterity.

Gotta love what I like to call SKTV, Serial Killer TV. But there’s much, much better out there. Google to your hearts content; there’s too many to list here, and I want to wrap this up. Skip this one.

Specs:
Company – Mill Creek Entertainment
Release Date – May 14th, 2019

Note: I did receive a promotional copy of this series. I did not, however, get chocolate, kittens, beer, or anything else for writing this review.

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