Killer Legends (2014)
Combine the childhood chills and thrills of your hometown haunted house with the grown-up pleasures of true crime and you get Killer Legends, a 2014 follow-up from the makers of the critically acclaimed Cropsey. In the same vein as that first film, Killer Legends investigates an anthology of real-life crimes that likely inspired urban legends that still scare kids today, from evil clowns to lovers’ lane murders to poisoned candy passed out to trick-or-treaters. It also turns its lens on the bigger issue of why urban legends start in the first place and what purpose they serve in communities and society at large.
In one word: Spooky
The Staircase (2018)
This 2001 docuseries may be the original from which springs the panoply of true crime stories we enjoy today. The Staircase centers upon Michael Peterson, a novelist who called the police to report the sudden injury of his wife Kathleen. Suspicion almost immediately settles on Peterson himself, and the resulting investigation only makes the whole case weirder. But rather than simply dwell on sordid speculation while we wait for a resolution, the series focuses on the meticulous work of Peterson’s defense team. Imagine the suspense film What Lies Beneath crossed with a chess match between two masters of the game, and you’ll have an idea of what you’re in for. You’ll finish the series understanding a lot more about how murder trials work, even if the issues of guilt and innocence end up seeming a lot murkier.
In one word: Enlightening
Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist (2018)
A humble pizza guy is hijacked by a group of criminals and forced to perform a bank robbery on their behalf with a bomb tied around his neck. It sounds like a dark comedy that the Coen Brothers might make. In fact, it’s a series of events that took place in 2003 in Erie, Pennsylvania and forms the basis of Evil Genius. This four-part docuseries investigates this stranger-than-fiction tale, with its unbelievable escalation and the aggravation supplied by the resulting media circus.
In one word: Riveting