True Crime Documentary The Twelfth Victim, Caril Fugate Tells Her Side of the Charles Starkweather Spree

Young love and a lot of murder is one way to sum up the possible story behind The Twelfth Victim. The other is far less sexy. It involves an 18-year-old going on a killing spree with a 14-year-old girl hostage. A lot of what happened is known. Whether or not Caril Fugate was a willing participant or not is at the heart of this true crime documentary.

The documentary starts off in an interesting way showing how many films have taken the story of Caril Fugate and Charles Starkweather and fictionalized it. Badlands is the most obvious recreation although much of it is fiction and more just heavily based on the killing spree.

This four-part series begins with the first episode profiling the murders. After, it delves into whether or not Caril was a willing participant or the twelfth victim. It’s an incredible premise. Does it deliver?

What was good about The Twelfth Victim

We go back in time with this documentary all the way to the late 1950s. It’s rare we have a crime case from this era. Aside from Ed Gein, who is really well-known to the average person? Even he has been lost to the psychopaths of the 1970s and 1980s who first come to mind when we think of crime.

The Twelfth Victim uses a ton of archive footage and interviews everyone they possibly can to tell Caril’s story; except for her. There is no shortage of people who knew her at multiple points of her life. You’ll watch this documentary and know everything there is to know about Starkweather’s spree. We even get to hear from the family members of victims.

I enjoyed the connection to pop culture. This was a re-telling of the Bonnie & Clyde story in an era with more expansive media coverage. Like Gein and his lampshades made of human skin, it was something people hadn’t seen before. The documentary was everything it needed to be. The Twelfth Victim did have one major weakness.

What could have made The Twelfth Victim better

Four episodes around an hour long each felt like way too much. The first episode covers the entire spree. What more could they show in the following three? A second episode about Caril’s potential innocence and a third about what happened in the later years would’ve been far better. I found myself drifting during this one. It was not attention-grabbing.

Documentaries without much mystery to them need something a little more special to keep my focus. The only mystery here is whether or not Caril was a willing participant. The case to say she was isn’t strong enough. So the mystery isn’t all that intriguing.

Despite being well-made and covering all of the information on this case, I can’t say I enjoyed watching it. They rushed through the events leading to the arrests. Telling the story a little more out-of-order may have helped to leave a little more intrigue.

Is The Twelfth Victim worth watching?

If you could fast-forward through it like a podcast, I’d recommend doing it. There really isn’t a whole lot of content in the latter three parts. It could have all been crammed into one. 

I cannot recommend this one. There were way too many times I kept waiting for something interesting to happen. It never came. It’s a one-sided documentary and we don’t even get to see any new footage from the actual twelfth victim it’s all about.

Overall Score: 4 out of 10

Wonderfully put together, The Twelfth Victim is more of a biography than a true crime documentary. I felt like I was in history class without all of the teasing from the cool kids.

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