I’ve never been a fan of horror movies, but if I’m going to watch a horror movie, I prefer psychological horror to gore and jump scares. Lately, there’s been a surge in the release of crime documentaries, and we can all agree that crime is a form of horror. Some of these crimes are so egregious that they make your stomach turn and your heart pump faster, but you can’t bring yourself to look away. It’s so oddly fascinating to consider that these crimes happened in the real world and not just on a movie screen. With that, here are some of the best crime documentaries to substitute for your regularly scheduled horror movies this Halloween.
JCS – Criminal Psychology (YouTube)
This isn’t a documentary, so to speak, but every video on this YouTube channel is so well put-together, with each case covered being relatively short, at about 50 minutes to an hour. Each video introduces the case before launching into police interrogation tapes of the suspect. The best part about this channel is that the creator narrates the psychology behind why the suspect acts the way they do during the interrogation. Usually, it’s clear if the suspect is innocent or not from the beginning, which takes away the suspense, but the real horror comes from knowing the psychology and seeing the suspect’s actions.
“Forensic Files” (Netflix)
This classic television show debuted in the ’90s as a way to promote the importance of and developments in the field of forensic evidence. While some episodes are more frightening than others, this series can be seen as a documentary with a happy ending because the cases are open and closed over the course of each episode, and justice is served thanks to forensic evidence.
“American Murder: The Family Next Door” (Netflix)
This documentary is told through Facebook messages and posts, as well as police body camera footage. This is a horrific, tragic exemplification of the idea that social media doesn’t reflect real life. Seeing that a normal, regular guy could do something so evil to his own family makes you question every “normal” person in your own life.
“Unsolved Mysteries” (Netflix)
A collection of, you guessed it, unsolved mysteries, this docuseries plays with your mind like nothing else. There is nothing more unsettling than seeing real-life atrocities have no explanation, no happy ending, no true, digestible answer. You can only sit back and let your mind suffer.
“The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez” (Netflix)
More depressing than horrific, this docuseries details the heart-wrenching abuse and eventual murder of a young boy who had the brightest smile. This true tragedy left me grieving a little boy I never knew for days after. The only solace was knowing justice had been served, but even then, it’s difficult to grasp the idea of a life barely lived, taken away so soon by the people meant to nurture and protect him.
“Abducted in Plain Sight” (Netflix)
This documentary is every parent’s worst nightmare. A little girl was abducted multiple times by a family friend. The true horror in this crime comes from seeing her and her parents narrate their trauma. Even with the most drastic of red flags, her parents were never aware of the torture their daughter was living with under their own roof.
“How To Fix a Drug Scandal” (Netflix)
This docuseries follows chemists who test drugs that were taken as evidence from cases. The idea that these people got in way over their heads for a while without anyone taking notice is frightening. Their co-workers, families and friends saw them as normal people living normal lives when really they were addicted to the drugs they were supposed to test in the lab. It’s haunting to think about what drove them down such a lonely, dangerous path. You’ll have to watch to find out!
This should be more than enough content to fill up your Halloween with real-life horror. Stay spooky and happy binge-watching, Bears!