Many of us enjoy a spooky tale, but when the story is true, it can be a little more unnerving. Documentaries help us to understand the world around us and the people we share it with, even if the stories are more terrifying than any horror movie you’ll ever see. The world is a lot stranger than anything in the movies, particularly when you consider that the evil characters in movies are often inspired by a real life human, or several that committed similar acts. The world is a scary place, you don’t need fiction to get your horror thrills.
Child of Rage (1992)
After several violent incidents at home, Clinical Psychologist Dr. Ken Magid interviews and treats a disturbed young girl who calmly explains how and why she wants to kill her family. The young girl suffered from an attachment disorder as a result of sexual abuse. You can watch it in its entirety on Youtube and hear the chilling conversations. It shows a reality that we rarely get to see, an abused child talking openly and being able to see how her development was affected.
The Killing of America (1981)
The Killing of America is an incredibly graphic documentary that depicts the decline of America through its history of violence. The documentary includes various violent deaths caught on camera and shows the disturbing footage. The film shows the reality of America’s history and is well made for its time. I would however advise against watching if you are affected by witnessing real life deaths, there are many throughout the documentary and it is very disturbing. The documentary is currently on Amazon Video.
Dreams of a Life (2011)
In 2003, 38 year old Joyce Vincent died in her flat in London. The cause of her death remains unknown but it is thought to have been either an asthma attack or a complication from a peptic ulcer. She was not found until 2006 when she had almost entirely decomposed. She had cut off all contact with her family and friends so nobody had looked for her. She was found with wrapped Christmas presents near her body that had not yet been addressed. The documentary is available for rent or purchase via Amazon and YouTube.
The Cheshire Murders (2013)
This documentary is the story of a harrowing home invasion in Cheshire, Connecticut. A mother and her two daughters were brutally raped and murdered and their husband/father was severely injured. The house was doused in gasoline before being set alight. Both daughters died of smoke inhalation while tied to their beds. The perpetrators were sentenced to death but before they could be executed, the death penalty was abolished and their sentences were changed to life without parole. It is available to watch via HBO.
The disappearance of Madeleine McCann (2019)
In May 2007, three year old Madeleine went missing from her family’s holiday apartment in Portugal. Her parents, from Leicester UK, have two other children younger than Madeleine were at a local tapas bar when she was abducted. They have been widely critisised and even accused of her murder despite both being experienced and respected medical doctors. There is a large amount of evidence that points to their involvement which the documentary combs through. After 13 long years, there have still been no criminal charges and Madeleine has never been found. It is a Netflix original and is currently available on their streaming service.
The documentary seeks to explain an urban legend based in New York City about stories of missing children. As the documentary progresses, it becomes clear that these stories weren’t necessarily made up. The film begins to delve into the convictions of a child kidnapper from Staten Island in the hope of finding out if Cropsey was ever real. Cropsey is available to purchase on Amazon and is available on Netflix in limited countries.
The Staircase (2018)
This documentary was based on a French documentary miniseries released in 2004. In 2018, Netflix released a remake that I found to be much better made. In 2001, novelist Michael Peterson reported the death of his wife after she fell down a flight of stairs. After the circumstances became increasingly suspicious, Peterson was charged. During the trial, it became clear that a family friend had died in his presence in the same way. The argument around whether or not this is a series of tragic coincidences or cold blooded murder is an interesting one.
Life and Death Row (2014- )
The BBC filmed three seasons of a documentary in America where they explore capital punishment. It explains the crimes and trials of those currently on death row, as well as the impact this has on the people around them and those left behind by their crimes. It is unclear if the BBC intend to create more episodes but there are quite a few available to watch on BBC iPlayer.