The Pitch: Years on, the American public continues to be obsessive about serial killers — who they’re, what makes them tick, the lurid particulars of their murderous escapades. Nobody is aware of this greater than the oldsters at Netflix, who toss out a brand new true-crime documentary each different week, and whose greatest hits embrace reveals like Mindhunter.
One of many platform’s greatest hits was 2019’s Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, which assembled a four-part chronicle of his crimes, his historical past, and the trial that ignited the general public’s creativeness. Now director Joe Berlinger is again with a follow-up, The John Wayne Gacy Tapes, drawing from almost 60 hours of recorded interviews with one other notorious mass assassin to inform one other story of misplaced innocence, the character of insanity, and the varied methods we’ve constructed our society to assist of us like Gacy get away with it.
Simply Name Me John or JW: Just like the earlier docuseries, the bread and butter of The John Wayne Gacy tapes are the recordings themselves, performed from 1979 to 1980 by investigators whereas he was on dying row. Fuzzy and ephemeral like an audio log in a online game, listening to those clips carries a morbid fascination, even when Berlinger’s presentation of them teeters perilously near a sort of hero worship.
It’s arduous not to withstand that temptation, in any case; serial killers have lingered within the public’s creativeness as societal deviants, the closest factor we’ve to pure, unambiguous demons. And Gacy’s story is especially theatrical, Berlinger hopping backwards and forwards by means of varied factors of his life to point out a person scarred by an abusive childhood, working his method into the general public’s belief by means of his work as a revered businessman, philanthropist and, sure, celebration clown.
(“I believe they had been good clowns,” Gacy chuckles concerning the many footage of Pogo the Clown he had in his home, the identical one the place he stashed 26 our bodies of the 33 younger boys he murdered. “However that’s simply me.”)
The conversations themselves (properly, much less conversations than they’re monologues from Gacy himself, the interviewers left to the occasional prodding query) provide loads of prurient element about Gacy’s tackle his childhood, in addition to his sexuality.
Early on, Berlinger establishes Gacy’s gleeful obsession with placing folks in positions of intense psychological stress simply to see what occurs, a basic element of his predilection towards serial killings. He professes each fascination and disgust with homosexuals relying on the second, together with his best ire reserved for the bisexual: not like gays and straights, who’ve romantic emotions towards a selected gender, “A bisexual has intercourse only for having intercourse. To me, it’s like a type of masturbation.”
Within the third episode, detailing the lengthy however inevitable trial course of that may ultimately see him executed in 1995, Gacy flits between confession to his crimes and feigning ignorance — one final piece of manipulation to maintain his topics on their toes. And it’s that mercurial nature that retains John Wayne Gacy Tapes from providing us any new revelations into Gacy’s true nature, remaining as elusive as ever.