Entering the Mind of a Killer

Netflix released on Friday, October 13th, its highly anticipated show called MINDHUNTER. The series, brought to us by David Fincher and Charlize Theron is a slick production that examines the development of the FBI's Serial Killer Unit in the 1970s. This actually happened when agents John E. Douglas and Robert K. Ressler interviewed some of the most notorious serial killers behind bars to gain insight into why they killed the way they did.

In the show, real life killers Ed Kemper, Richard Speck, Dennis Rader (BTK) and Jerry Brudos are portrayed by very talented actors who are able to show us the unique, quirky behaviors that each man possesses, while at the same time, helping the agents in the show, and the audience, understand some of the things they all have in common. Kemper, nicknamed the Co-ed Killer because his victims were primarily young female college students hitchhiking whom he would pick up and kill then mutilate and dismember them back at his house. He also murdered his own mother with a claw hammer, then severed her head and had sex with it.

Kemper stands 6'9" tall, is heavy and hulking in appearance, however, he is also incredibly articulate. Cameron Britton who portrays the giant killer keeps us on the edge of our seats because his conversations with the agents in the show are really well thought out and quiet, exactly the way Kemper himself speaks, but every so often, you can see the darkness peek out that drove this monster to commit his horrifying murders. Britton's performance is chilling.

The two agents in the show are Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) who not only deal with the invasion of these monsters into their minds, but also battle with the FBI to proclaim that their scientific approach to catching killers is truly valid. Season one has 10 episodes which cover not only their creepy encounters with the killers, but also shows how their growing understanding of the aberrant way of thinking these men had helps them to solve other horrific crimes introduced into the show.

Groff and McCallany are well paired and possess an engaging chemistry that makes them feel very real, and, very overwhelmed not only by these twisted killers they dialogue with but also with the highs and lows that life throws at them.

The two agents are also teamed with a psychologist, Dr. Wendy Carr , played by Anna Torv, who specializes in working with victims of serial killer's crimes. The three of them work together to develop the role of a profiler, something new and unheard of in the FBI which at this time which was still overshadowed by the influence of how J. Edgar Hoover ran the bureau.

While initially interesting, the relationship that agent Ford has with his girlfriend Debbie, played by Hannah Gross, starts to wear thin pretty quickly. Even their steamy bedroom scenes are not as interesting as hearing Jerry Brudos cackling and giggling while wearing his belly chains and prattling on and on about his fascination with women's shoes.

The show, developed by Joe Penhall, has just been greenlit for season 2. You can hear all of the fans of dark shows like Dexter, Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal cheering because Mindhunter has so much promise, and so many more weird, disturbing killers to explore with our embattled but heroic agents Ford and Tench.

Supposedly, there can be as many as 35 - 50 serial killers hard at work in this country. The odds of any one of us bumping into a monster is rather unlikely, however, one could be standing right next to you in the checkout line at the grocery store. You just would never know, especially when they are out masquerading as a real human being.

I have not met one in person, not that I know of, however, I did write to one who answered my letter. I had invited David Berkowitz (Son of Sam) to come on my show and talk about his book "Son of Hope" which chronicled his journey through hell while he was killing people, then prosecuted and imprisoned to finally finding peace after accepting Jesus Christ into his life.

I spoke with the warden of Sullivan Correctional facility in upstate New York, where David currently lives and asked if David could come on my show. They said yes would provide a phone hookup for him so I could do the interview, but, David had the final say as to whether or not he would appear. I sent him a straightforward, polite invitation and he responded right away, thanking me for the opportunity however he declined because he no longer controlled who was selling his book and it appeared that many copies had been stolen and were being sold online for exorbitant amounts of money.

I could completely understand his reason for not wanting to do the interview, however, it was how he prepared and sent his letter that was so fascinating to me. It was precisely typed using a typewriter (not a word processor) and was so incredibly neat and tidy that it actually looked like the folded correspondence to me had hospital corners. His precise way of writing, the word choices, how he folded the paper, and the exact placement of the stamp on the envelope all had earmarks of one of the traits serial killers have in common with each other, and that is, total control over what they are doing and intricately planning out then executing the precise way of writing the letter.

I will be waiting impatiently along with all of the other fans of dark and twisted stories while Season 2 goes into production. I wonder if Kemper or Brudos or Rader were allowed to watch the show (Speck passed away over 10 years ago) and, part of me wonders if the other serial killers out there, honing their craft and as yet undiscovered might be watching it as well to crib notes.

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The greatness of a nation and it's moral progress can be judged by the way it's animals are treated - Mahatma Ghandi

©  Briar Lee Mitchell, 2014