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MPI Home Video presents
The Serial Killers (2005)

"A serial killer murders three or four people over a period of time. It's estimated that there are over 200 serial killers at large in the world today."
- opening title sequence

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: February 02, 2006

Director: Neil Ashford

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mature subject matter, discussion of violence)
Run Time: 05h:45m:00s
Release Date: August 30, 2005
UPC: 030306766591
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B A-B-B D-

DVD Review

I went through a "true crime" phase a couple of decades ago, and I just could not read enough books about serial killers or assorted psychopaths. I guess I had some perverse fascination with the dark underbelly of humanity, and based on the number of books available on the subject it would seem I wasn't the only one. Funny how starting a family of your own and having a child will suddenly make these stories of savage, unrepentant killing seem less curious and more just plain disturbing.

This three-disc set from MPI, originally presented as a television series, could be considered a "worst of", with 13 different serial killers profiled in great and gory clinical detail from witnessess, police, friends, and even the killers themselves. It's a damn depressing set of stories, with each getting roughly a half-hour of coverage, and through interviews we are given explicit descriptions of their crimes, and it is quite numbing in its consistent brutality.

The subjects read like a Who's Who of the dregs of mankind, with Disc 1 covering William Heirens, Harvey Lee Carignan, Henry Lee Lucas, and Kenneth Allen McDuff; Disc 2 has Ted Bundy, Ronald DeFeo Jr., Kenneth Bianchi, Douglas Clark; Disc 3 takes on Michael Bruce Ross, James A. Paul, Catherine May Wood, Gwendolyn Graham, and Arthur Shawcross. Some of the names—such as Ted Bundy, Henry Lee Lucas or Ronald "Amityville Horror" DeFeo—will be more familiar than others, but that doesn't make the ones you never heard of any less threatening or vile. Every one of these segments is filled with discussion after discussion of horrible, cruel crimes, and it is often difficult to wrap your brain around what one person can do to another.

This is the kind of material that you don't want to necessarily admit you "like" because it seems so wrong to mine any entertainment via all of this misery. But it is still somehow fascinating—in very unpleasant ways—but the presentation is clinically factual, free of distracting reenactments and unrelentingly somber. If you've ever gravitated toward those lurid "true crime" books, then none of this will be completely alien to you. But it does take a special constitution to endure.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: For a documentary the image quality is suitable, though not as vibrant as feature. The interview segments have a set of slightly subdued colors that gives each of the 13 episodes the feel of a news program, and while the presentation is unremarkable it is more than adequate.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Much like the image transfer, the audio portion is simple but effective, delivered in an ordinary 2.0 stereo that presents clear interviews and narration. No trace of hiss or distortion whatsoever.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Packaging: Scanavo variant
Picture Disc
3 Discs
3-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras, with the exception of optional English subtitles.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Hollywood can never make anything scarier than the real thing, and when it comes to serial killers this three-disc documentary set from MPI about 13 of the worst will do little to settle your nerves. Something like this is best watched in small doses otherwise the grim discussions of endless murder just becomes too much.



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