There are almost true crime docos every week on streaming services now. Some channels even specialise in the genre.
6 part HBO whodunnit I’ll Be Gone in the Dark screens on FOX Showcase and Binge from tomorrow, a week ahead of the ‘Golden State Killer’ case set to returning to the US courts (avoid spoilers?).
To stand out from the pack, true crimes need a unique hook (or a Tiger King) and the angle here is crime writer Michelle McNamara, wife of actor (and doco producer) Patton Oswalt.
McNamara was addicted to crime solving, through her blog True Crime Diary, magazine articles and books. She was obsessed with uncovering the East Area Rapist aka Golden State Killer -a predator who committed at least 13 murders, and more than 50 rapes in California between 1973 and 1986.
But it was a case that terrified Sacramento and bamboozled US police, with McNamara determined to piece together the clues, often drawing upon online communities and like-minded amateur sleuths.
“Everyone has their cause. This is what I was born to do.
“I’m like a rat in a maze given a task,” she admitted. “I had a murder habit and it was bad. I would feed it for the rest of my life.”
Yet as the press release tells us, this is also about McNamara’s relentless determination for justice which helped keep the case alive and who “tragically died of an accidental overdose while writing her book.”
But director Liz Garbus, amongst others, draws upon considerable footage of McNamara that helps us see her piece this jigsaw together. There are interviews with former police who detail their frustration in tracking down this man who terrorised women in their homes, and sometimes tying up their husbands while he raped their wives. There’s even a sense of how rape was considered ‘less’ of a crime in the ’70s where women supposedly ‘enticed’ men through their fashion or behaviour …absolute time warp stuff.
Others who remember McNamara -friends, editors and Patton himself- also help paint a picture of a most-determined crusader.
Yet the interviews with former victims of the E.A.R. are amongst the most chilling stuff. I have no idea how these survivors can bring themselves to detail such horrific incidents for the camera, and at times I felt like it bordered on ‘true crime porn.’ More power to them, for showing incredible courage.
It’s clear from her writing that McNamara was a gifted storyteller, painting images that were gruesome but compelling for those driven by mystery and a search for justice. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is definitely a down-the-rabbit-hole experience where you too become more and more addicted to solving it with her.
8:30pm Sunday on FOX Showcase and all episodes available on Binge.