Movies & TV

Expect Serial Killer-Themed Movies and Shows in 2019

A number of high-profile TV shows and films are set to revisit the grim Ted Bundy and Charles Manson cases in 2019. It's a morbid fascination that won't go away

If trends in popular culture paint a picture of society at that moment, the growing interest in film and TV about serial killers should have us all worried.

Netflix recently announced Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, a four-part documentary series coming to the streaming service in January to mark the 30th anniversary of the notorious murderer's execution.

The news confirms 2019 will be a bumper year for Bundy, with series director Joe Berlinger also releasing a film about the killer. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile will retell Ted Bundy's (Zac Efron) crimes from the perspective of his longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer (Lily Collins), who refused to believe the truth about him for years.

Bundy isn't the only murderer we'll be seeing on our screens, with Quentin Tarnatino's Once Upon a Time In Hollywood due to be released in July of next year. The director has been at pains to point out it is not a film strictly about Charles Manson film–he's says it's about Los Angeles in the summer of 1969 and a TV actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) looking to get into the film business - but the horrific murder of Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and her friends by Manson’s cult is a backdrop to the story.


In another strange bit of symmetry, the actor Tarantino has chosen to play Manson will also appear as the killer in the forthcoming second season of Netflix crime series, Mindhunter. Perhaps Australian actor Damon Herriman should be worried about becoming typecast, though if this trend continues at least he'll be guaranteed work.

The interest in true crime dramas has grown enormously in recent years with series like The Staircase and The Keepers gaining huge followings, and in the instance of Making a Murderer, giving fans a still-developing case to sift through.

While these have given us insight into lesser-known crimes, audiences are still showing a desire to revisit the Bundy and Manson murders. Even decades laters, these grimly charismatic killers are still a source of deep fascination.

Manson, who died last November after four decades in prison, remains one of the most disturbing examples of a cult figure who was able to attract and influence others.

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Cults, too, have been a surging trend in popular culture. Earlier this year Netflix's Wild Wild Country - the series which explored the crazy story of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh's 'free love' commune in Oregan - became all anyone could talk about for weeks. Meanwhile in literature Emma Cline's 2016 novel The Girls was one of the books of the summer despite the grim subject matter of a group indoctrinated into a cult by a figure based on - you guessed it - Charles Manson.

The morbid appeal of peering into the depths of what humanity is capable of is, in itself, a source of fascination. Attempting to explain 'Ted Bundy fandom' to the New Statesman in October, Professor of Criminology at Birmingham City University David Wilson said: "People might follow a serial killer because they are complex puzzles that they want to figure out, but I sense this is also driven by co-activation and the titillation of getting close to something frightening with the knowledge you won’t come to any harm."

IMAGE: Getty

Both Conversations With A Killer and Once Upon A Time...will bring something new to the table, with Netflix's documentary series offering previously unheard audio of interviews with Bundy while he was on death row in Florida, and Tarantino likely writing a Manson who is familiar and yet not as we could ever have imagined. Whatever the reason we decided to tune in, 2019 looks set to be the year of the serial killer.

This story originally appeared on edits have been made by the editors.

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Olivia Ovenden
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