All genres have their tropes that get returned to again and again. Historians write about the Civil War and World War II and the Civil War; singers write about breakups. For crime shows, serial killers represent the genre’s bottomless well. Netflix’s Mindhunter seeks to explore that vein as deeply as possible, and in the process creates television’s quietest noir.
FBI Special Agents Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) are the founders of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, which gave birth to the idea of “profiling” serial killers. Tench and Ford crisscross the country, interviewing serial killers with the intent of developing tools that will allow for the developing of psychological fingerprints of these compulsive killers, as an aid to capturing them. Fascinating and thoughtful, the series is significantly quieter than other cop shows. Mindhunter jettisons the foot chases and gunfights, and focuses on the agents interviewing serial killers
Mindhunter is based on the book of the same name by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. Again, lesser cop shows pay lip service to the idea of “getting into the sick bastard’s head,” usually followed by some leap of logic that leads to the cops catching the killer. In Mindhunter, the interviews are the big centerpieces of most episodes. They’re great exercises in text and subtext, with the agents asking about thoughts and processes of the killers. The challenge of the show, and the reward for the patient viewer, is the agents discussing the interviews afterwards. They debate if the answers given were sincere, if the killer was being truthful, or misinterpreting things, or just outright lying. While fascinating, the interviews carry their own frustrating ambiguity.
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Now that Halloween’s over, those of us who enjoy a dark streak in our entertainment will seek out ways to stretch out the spooky season, even as the tidal wave of Christmas ads begins to crest.
Those in New England seeking a last taste of horror would do well to seek out “It’s Alive! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Art from the Kirk Hammett Collection” at the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, MA.
Kirk Hammett is best known as being the lead guitarist for Metallica, but his years touring with a multi-Platinum band has afforded him the opportunity to collect horror and sci-fi memorabilia. The exhibit is a natural progression from Too Much Horror Business, Hammett’s 2012 book showcasing his collection.
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That Cthulhu is a cultural force is a truth self evident to the readers of this blog, as evidenced by his numerous movies, RPGs and plush dolls. But his ubiquitousness can still surprise when he appears in unexpected media. The most recent creative force to sing (literally) Cthulhu’s praises: Metallica.
Metallica’s recent album Hardwired… to Self Destruct dropped November 18, and I was surprised to find one of their songs directly singing about great Cthulhu, and what exactly his rising means for humanity. The song “Dream No More” opens with singer James Hetfield declaring “He sleeps under black seas waiting / Lies dreaming in death”, followed by the litany of horrors that follows as “He wakes as the world dies screaming / all horrors arrive.”
That a metal band would sing about the end of humanity at the hands of an alien entity is not surprising; the genre has a long history of dabbling in the imagery of the occult, pseudo-satanic and even Lovecraftian. That Metallica would do it, however, is unusual. The band’s songs have catalog struggles and personal pains, exploring human themes like contemplating suicide (“Fade to Black” from 1984’s Ride the Lightning), drug abuse (“Master of Puppets,” 1986’s Master of Puppets), the horrors of war (“One” from 1988’s …And Justice for All) and the fear engendered by nightmares (“Enter Sandman” from 1991’s Metallica).
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