People revel in the world of true crime, absorbing information about notorious and vile serial killers and memorising their predatory techniques in the scariest documentaries available for streaming. While they are shocked by their grotesque depravity, the sensational investigation causes an adrenaline rush that the viewers enjoy.
Netflix seems to have perfected the art of making disturbing, harrowing documentaries. With ones like The Tinder Swindler to Worst Roommate Ever, the streamer has inculcated a growing interest in true crime and other scary events.
Gruesome, abhorrent and shocking, these true-crime stories are usually unsolved and stem from the brutal acts committed by notorious serial killers. Often heartbreaking, they are inconclusive and make us think and often spiral into a realm of melancholy.
Here are the five scariest documentaries on Netflix:
5 scariest true-crime shows on Netflix
House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths (Leena Yadav, 2021)
With three episodes, Leena Yadav’s docuseries explores one of the most baffling true crime cases in India which shocked the entire nation after a family of eleven members in Delhi died in a bizarre manner, before exposing shocking and spine-chilling truths about the same, which raises important questions about society, family structures and more.
Extremely well-documented well-shot, Yadav deals with this sensational case extremely delicately and with the utmost respect. Having conducted several interviews which ran over 400 hours, she said, “I went into an interview not knowing what I will learn and where it will turn. I had to surrender to it, as the emotional content was so strong. We don’t know what happened to the case and that is where the documentary will take you. More than a ‘whodunit’ it is a ‘whydunit’ and even though the first question is who, why is much more important in this case.”
Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies and the Internet (Brian Knappenberger, 2022)
This six-part anthology series covers five unsettling stories from the darkest pits of the Internet with the filmmaker and his team uncovering various stories of Americans who have encountered several criminals on the web in the twisted modern-day world of deception and misinformation.
From white supremacists to the Russian interference in the election, the series is a brazen and audacious exploration of the dangerous world of lies and deceit while emphasising the lack of autonomy over the spread of digital crime and influence.
Keep Sweet Pray and Obey (Rachel Dretzin, 2022)
Dubbed “real-life The Handmaid’s Tale” (a Margaret Atwood novel that saw women being treated as fertility machines under religious oppression), this documentary series is perhaps one of the most disturbing and harrowing releases on the streamer which provides an intimate insight into the mysterious and perverse world of the Fundamentalist Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), a church that is an offshoot of the Mormons.
The documentary details the violent and horrific tales of misogyny, child abuse, pregnancy, child marriage, polyamory, forced consent and corruption. In current times, it is a pretty explosive piece that explores women’s bodies, rights and agencies while detailing tales of exploitation and horrific abuse.
Conversations With a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes (Joe Berlinger, 2022)
Unlike most other documentarians, Joe Berlinger does not fetishist the idea of a serial killer nor does he portray the notorious John Wayne Gacy as an anti-establishment icon. Better known as a depraved and narcissistic sexual predator who does not deserve a place in the cavernous bottoms of hell, Gacy’s notoriety unfolds over three episodes which feature interviews with those close to him and a testimony from one of many survivors whose recollection of trauma and abuse will tug at the viewers’ heartstrings.
Gacy was convicted of having brutally sexually assaulted and murdered 29 young men (if not more) before retaining parts of them as trophies. Despicable and utterly homophobic, this sociopath coerced men into performing sexual acts on him before raping and killing them. He also blamed the victims and expressed his disgust towards them.
Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer (Tiller Russell, 2021)
With four ominous episodes, the documentary explores the notorious serial killer Richard Ramirez who became the infamous night stalker in California. Convicted of kidnapping, raping, child molestation and burglary, Ramirez haunted the streets at night before being caught during an extensive manhunt.
The docuseries portrays a chilling yet fascinating portrait of a terrifying serial killer who still managed to garner a legion of female fans. While reflecting on his childhood and trial pretty effectively, the series celebrates the work of the homicide detectives and their team as well as the justice they managed to bring to the survivors, paying a sombre and respectful homage to the deceased.