SXSW Review STARZ’s Confronting A Serial Killer- A Gripping Necessary Story
STARZ’s Docuseries Confronting A Serial Killer is a compelling look at a human monster and the woman who defied her fears to help those victims who no longer have a voice.
There is a certain subset of people who are drawn to crime stories. If they are unsolved or especially violent, all the better. SNL and South Park both have made jokes about it because people are obsessed with these stories. Fans of the subgenre know Samuel Little’s name. He is one of the most talked-about killers in history. Confronting A Serial Killer is the kind of story you quickly get sucked into but has the importance of a more significant societal problem. That elevates the docuseries from a simple crime-porn binge to smart, engrossing television. Daring monsters from our living rooms’ relative safety gives us the ability to face terrible things. Watching a woman come to grips with her own past while getting justice for those who need it most is extraordinary.
From Emmy-winning filmmaker Joe Berlinger, Confronting A Serial tells the story of an unbelievable relationship between New York Times best-selling author Lauren Jillian and Samuel Little. Jillian interviewed the killer numerous times and assisted law enforcement hoping to get closure for the angry and confused families. Her crusade is very personal, and the series showcases that vulnerability well. Berlinger is known for producing these true crime stories. He is behind The Ted Bundy Tapes and Netflix’s recent Crime Scene: The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel. This time he pointed that focus on Samuel Little and brave journalist Lauren Jillian.
Little was the most prolific killer in US history. He took 93 lives over four decades. Little had avoided justice for most of his victims because he selected those who had no voice. Sex workers, drug addicts, those mentally ill, and especially women of color were easy targets for the killer. Time is running out for Jillian to reveal the truth before he died. Little died recently in jail at age 80. The more Lauren uncovers about Little’s life, the more she is drawn into his nightmarish world where women, especially marginalized ones, were exploited and ultimately killed for sport. Making matters worse, the justice system fails them miserably. She may become his next psychological victim as her time with him begins to take its toll on her.
Lauren Jillian is a revelation. She is simultaneously fragile and steel-spined. The author/memoirist is honest and doggedly determined to pull the veil back on his crimes regardless of the personal cost. In the two episodes shown at SXSW, she weaves an intoxicating personal tale of abuse and addiction with a decades-long criminal investigation. Jillian worked with law enforcement and continued to interview Little, potentially solving many cold cases. Little’s crimes are horrific, and his indifference is chilling, but Jillian’s story is raw. The electric honesty of her story-telling is one that most women can relate to one way or another. She exposes her own truths and massive flaws in the justice system. That system victimizes the victims and all too often protects the criminals.
Berlinger brilliantly juxtaposes Jillian’s story with the breakdown in the justice system. Systemic injustice is a plague that haunts us today. Series like this are an essential part of that change. Confronting a Serial Killer is about confronting our demons, personal and external. Sometimes those demons are self-created, and others are societal ills that allow Evil to grow. Sometimes Berlinger’s work verges on the sensational, but when he gets it right like Paradise Lost: The Child Murders At Robin Hood Hills, it is exemplary. His new series smartly focused on Jillian and the reasons behind Little’s escaping justice. The conclusions the docuseries ultimately makes should terrify everyone.
The 5 episode docuseries Confronting A Serial Killer will premier on STARZ on April 18th, 2021 at 9pm across all their streaming applications.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.