Debuting on Disney Plus this week comes the new true crime drama film Boston Strangler, directed by Matt Ruskin, starring Keira Knightley and Carrie Coon.
While the true crime craze has reached its apex, not much attention has been paid to this case from the early 1960s, and the film is fascinating not for its lurid details but for its focus on two female journalists, Loretta McLaughlin and Jean Cole (played by Knightley and Coon) who connect the murders, break the story, and dub the murderer "the Boston Strangler".
The film is much more in the vein of an investigative thriller as these two women work against the patriarchal forces in the 1960s to track down the killer. In fact, rather than suggest other serial killer films, it seems more appropriate to group Boston Strangler with other journalism and investigation films and series, especially one with female protagonists.
In setting and content, Boston Strangler shares DNA with Tom McCarthy's Oscar-winning Spotlight, about the reporting team at the Boston Globe who exposed decades of sexual abuse and cover-up within the Catholic Archdiocese.
In fact, it calls to mind another recent film about female journalists tracking down a sexual predator: Maria Schrader's rigorous 2022 film She Said, about the reporting team at the New York Times who broke the Harvey Weinstein story in 2016.
Despite the decades between McLaughlin and Cole and Jodie Kantor and Megan Twohey (played by Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan), there are interesting parallels in the uniquely feminine skills required to report out a story such as this. Stream She Said on Apple TV or rent it elsewhere.
In setting and content, Boston Strangler shares DNA with Tom McCarthy's Oscar-winning Spotlight (2015), about the reporting team at the Boston Globe who exposed decades of sexual abuse and cover-up within the Catholic Archdiocese.
Rachel McAdams plays the dogged reporter Sacha Pfeiffer, the lone female reporter on the Spotlight team, working to persuade victims to tell their stories on the record. Stream Spotlight on Netflix.
Documentarian Liz Gabrus' first feature film, The Lost Girls (2020), is also a worthy double feature, with its bleak tone and true crime origins. Amy Ryan stars in this adaptation of Robert Kolker's blockbuster book, about a mother searching desperately for information about her daughter, a sex worker who goes missing on Long Island.
Her efforts lead to more missing women, a string of unsolved murders that no one has bothered to connect. Stream it on Netflix.
Also on Netflix is David Fincher's excellent series "Mindhunter," about the FBI profilers in the 1970s who developed the science by interviewing serial killers in prison. Starring Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany, it also co-stars Carrie Coon's doppelganger Anna Torv (who can be seen on HBO's "The Last of Us").
On Binge, the remarkable miniseries I'll Be Gone in the Dark (2020), about the late writer and investigator Michelle McNamara, adapted from her 2018 book, which was posthumously published.
McNamara, who was married to the comedian Patton Oswalt, spent years sleuthing out the murderer she dubbed "The Golden State Killer" and working on her book, which was unfinished when she died suddenly.
The book, and the series, is not only a depiction of her dedicated investigation, but also a reflection of her obsession with tracking down this prolific killer.
In 2018, Joseph James D'Angelo was arrested, identified through forensic genetic genealogy, and in 2020 sentenced to life imprisonment.
McNamara's work undoubtedly led to renewed attention on the case and D'Angelo's subsequent conviction.
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