You’d be forgiven for thinking, after a long hard day at work, most people like to unwind in front of the TV with a gentle comedy or an easy-going sitcom.
But no. Thanks to Netflix‘s penchant for utterly compelling, true crime documentaries, a lot of us are binging on stories about gruesome, unsolved murders, and conspiracy theories which are so out-of-the-ordinary, they make Hollywood’s best thrillers look tame.
After the word-of-mouth success of Making a Murderer, the genre has gone from strength to strength, even spawning a brilliant mockumentary called American Vandal.
The latest documentary is no different.
The Staircase examines the strange death of Kathleen Peterson, who was found at the bottom of the stairs by her 58-year-old novelist husband, Michael Peterson, in their house in North Carolina.
Peterson claimed his wife had fallen, but he was tried for murder.
As the bare bones of the documentary, the facts are intriguing to say the least. But as the series digs deeper, revelations come to light, which will have you devouring the programme in one sitting.
Check out the trailer here:
There’s a lot more to Michael Peterson than meets the eye. Without giving too much away, the series follows the build-up to Peterson’s trial, the trial itself and the aftermath, examining the American justice system and the hysteria which is created around high profile cases.
The first eight episodes originally aired in 2004, with two more being made in 2013. Yet three new instalments were made last year for the Netflix run, rounding off the series to its conclusion.
The documentary was helmed by French director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, a veteran documentarian, who the producers of Making a Murderer consulted for advice while making their own documentary, so it’s safe to say the series was in good hands.
If a 13-part series sounds a bit much for you, and you’re after something similarly intriguing but easier to digest, the recent Evil Genius also had the desired effect of captivating audiences with an unsolved, convoluted crime.
Fully-titled Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist, the series follows the strange case of Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, a highly intelligent woman, who somehow had a connection to the death of Brian Wells.
Wells, a 46-year-old pizza delivery man, walked into a bank in Pennsylvania in August, 2003, with a bomb strapped around his neck and a shotgun disguised as a cane.
Check out the trailer here:
Of course, the plot thickens. Questions about who organised the crime abound, was Wells a victim forced into it, was he a willing participant, were other incidents around the time connected to the pizza-bomber and, if one person masterminded the whole plot, how and why?
Those not satisfied by the series’ four episodes however can breath a sigh of relief, as directors Barbara Schroeder and Trey Borzillieri have revealed they want a second series.
This time it would be a ‘deep dive’ focusing on the characters involved in the case.
We can’t wait.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.