The Serial Killers DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by Dark Sky Films
Directed by Neal Ashford
1995, Region 1 (NTSC), 390 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on August 30th, 2005
Harvey Louis Carignan
Henry Lee Lucas
Kenneth Allen McDuff
Theodore Robert Bundy
Ronald DeFeo Jr.
Michael Bruce Ross
James A. Paul
Catherine May Wood
The Serial Killers is a documentary on some of the best known and lesser-known serial killers out there.
In half-hour segments for each killer — with the exception of an hour with "The Lethal Lovers," Catherine May Wood and Gwendolyn Graham — Killers uses interviews from not only prosecutors, journalists and the victims' families, but the murderers themselves, to go into horrific detail about both their crimes and the motivation behind them.
Be prepared, because these stories are real.
Quick question: Name a serial killer, any serial killer.
Now, name a member of Congress. Any member.
Which name was easier to come up with?
America has a fascination with serial killers like no other country. Certainly part of it is our nation seems to breed them like rabbits. I think another reason is people try to grasp why someone would kill someone else, in many cases, for no reason other than wrong place, wrong time.
Killers doesn't attempt to provide any answers for why the murderers did what they did. What it does do is pack each half-hour segment with enough information for you to at least think about why they kill.
The best part of Killers, for me, is that it didn't just cover the most notorious serial killers. Sure, it has segments on Ted Bundy, Henry Lee Lucas and Kenneth Bianchi, but it also has segments on William Heirens and Douglas Clark: two killers who, up until now, I didn’t know of. In addition, it also has a segment on Ronald DeFeo Jr., who is probably best known as the young man who killed his parents in the Amityville house. The Amityville house, of course, is best known from the movie The Amityville Horror.
While all the segments are good, two stand out.
The first is the story of Kenneth Allen McDuff. McDuff received the death penalty for the first time in 1966 for his role in the murder of three teens. That’s right, I said for the first time. Because in 1972, the Supreme Court abolished capital punishment and McDuff's execution date was commuted to life imprisonment. He was paroled in 1989 and he promptly begin to kill again. Five more women died at his hands.
Finally arrested again in 1992, after being profiled on "America's Most Wanted," McDuff once again received the death penalty and, thankfully, this time his punishment was fulfilled.
What makes McDuff's segment so powerful is Assistant U.S. Attorney William Johnston’s interview, in which he describes McDuff’s horrific crimes. While Johnston never actually breaks down during his interview, you can tell he really cared for the victims, and he makes you care for them, too. His is the most powerful interview in the documentary.
The most disturbing serial killer interview, hands down, is that of "The Roadside Killer," Michael Bruce Ross. Ross brutally murdered at least six women and, during his interview — like most killers in these interviews — he shows no emotion. He's very nonchalant about the lives he destroyed. I bet many people did a happy dance when his life was finally destroyed when he was executed in July 2005.
Each and every one of the segments brought some sort of emotion out of me, from anger over the McDuff case, to stunned disbelief, as in the case of Ross' interview. Watching this documentary is like watching a train wreck — you just can't turn away from the horror unfolding before you.
If there is one downside to Killers, it is that I wish the segments were longer. But each one packs such a punch, you'll be feeling the damage for a while afterwards.
Video and Audio:
While a bit soft, Killers' 4:3 OAR picture is warm and clear. There are some instances of grain, but for the most part it’s a good looking picture.
Aside from the grating music that segues between the segments, Killers is clean and clear. But the music is so bad, and so annoying, you may want to reach for your remote to mute whatever your audio source may be so your ears don't start bleeding, as mine did.
No special features are offered — but this three-disc documentary does not suffer in the least from that.
There are times I really hate reviewing movies and there are times I live for it. This is one of those latter times, as Killers lived up to every one of my expectations. The Serial Killers is a must buy for those who are interested in learning more about the darkest of the dark. Its $39.98 MSRP may seem steep, but the wealth of material stuffed into these three DVDs is well worth the money: 13 serial killers, 13 segments, almost six hours. That is a bargain.
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