Waco: American Apocalypse Documentary Review, Another David Koresh Story
There are some weeks when I check streaming services for new documentaries and I’m thrilled. When the MH370: The Plane That Disappeared documentary popped up as a notification on my phone from Netflix, I was elated and ready to finish my day so I could get to the next and watch this one during work. I had the exact opposite feeling when I saw Waco: American Apocalypse on Netflix, too.
Another David Koresh story isn’t something I was too eager to watch. The Waco siege is too well-known. Documentaries have been done to death about this.
I began watching Waco: American Apocalypse with some doubts. Could it sway me?
What was good about Waco: American Apocalypse
We get right into the siege. There is no background on Koresh, his followers, or much of anything. The documentary isn’t a slow burn. It makes it clear from the beginning this is all about the standoff and not what led to it.
I absolutely loved this take. Previous documentaries about Koresh or similar situations seem to take too long to start. I was expecting the end of the first episode would be the start of the siege. Instead, the action starts right away.
The documentary includes a lot of interviews with FBI, ATF, and Branch Davidians who were inside the compound when the firefight took place. We hear from both sides. In a strange way, you can almost feel some sympathy for Koresh and his followers. This is a highly debated incident in American history. It’s the kind of event worthy of more than one documentary.
Waco: American Apocalypse chose to focus more on the people who were present for the action rather than all of the journalists who covered it. This made it different from some other things I’ve watched. I felt like this worked. I hadn’t seen a lot of the footage or interviewees included.
What could have made Waco: American Apocalypse better
Do you know what I want to see? I want to see a full combination of the Waco siege and how it spawned the Oklahoma City Bombing. Timothy McVeigh makes a brief appearance in this documentary, but it’s only a footnote on the incident. Before 9/11, the Oklahoma City Bombing was the biggest terror attack in my lifetime. I remember the manhunt as a kid. I have never come across a good documentary about it.
Perhaps it’s because I was expecting something different that has me feeling good after watching this documentary. We find out so many little details about the event. Where snipers were positioned. What it was like to see Koresh 300 yards away in the crosshairs of your gun. As far as a documentary goes, the only thing I wanted was for it to, no pun intended, branch out a little more.
Is Waco: American Apocalypse worth watching?
Yes! This was surprisingly much more fascinating than I thought it would be. When there are stories we already know the outcome for, it’s hit and miss. I don’t ever need to watch a Ted Bundy documentary ever again. Waco: American Apocalypse benefits from getting interviews with people on both sides of the fight. It made for an incredible watch.
Overall Score: 9 out of 10
I wanted to hate this documentary and rip apart how it offered nothing new. On the contrary, it skipped a lot of the boring stuff and instead made a film series all about how both sides handled the fight and the media coverage. I loved this take. It helped make it stand out.
True Crime Documentary Awards: Have You Seen Andy? for Most Uncomfortable On-Screen Moments
I’m writing this well over a year after watching Have You Seen Andy? It’s a true crime documentary about the disappearance of Andy Puglisi in Massachusetts during the 1970s. Whenever I watch true crime documentaries or any other genre I feel is worth reviewing and writing about, I’ll make a note of it. Sometimes I’ll look back and not remember a thing about the documentary. It’s different with this one.
Paradise Lost begins with the dead bodies of the three murdered boys, but Have You Seen Andy goes into a different type of creepy with some staying power. I haven’t forgotten them. Both have stuck with me because of the terror and just how down-right creepy it was.
The description in Have You Seen Andy of him being taken away is chilling
Please excuse me if I get any details wrong in this. It has been well over a year since I watched this documentary.
Anyway, there is one witness who came forward to say he saw Andy abducted by several men. Andy helped the witness, another young boy at the time, escape from the group of pedophiles who had been hiding in the woods. The boy escaped but Andy wasn’t so lucky. They grabbed him and carried him away while he was tied to a rock screaming. It’s easily one of the most terrifying descriptions I’ve seen in any documentary I’ve watched. It gives me chills thinking about it.
Both boys knew what was going to happen next. What makes it even more heartbreaking, there is no justice in this story.
The audio of Wayne W. Chapman in Have You Seen Andy is disgusting
A main suspect in the case is Wayne W. Chapman. A known creep in the area, he was arrested for other crimes but not for the disappearance of Andy.
In one part of the documentary we hear an audio recording Wayne made while acting out a conversation he’d like to have with a child or something of that nature. He talks about the boy being hesitant at first to engage in acts with him only to discover that he’s enjoying it. I kind of remember the exact word choice he used and the unsavory and shaky voice he spoke with. I’ve done my best to try to censor this yet get the point across. Pedophiles, for obvious reasons, have always been able to get into my head. I still remember in a Marilyn Manson song it begins with an audio confession of a pedophile talking about a molestation he was arrested for. Even as an adult today I have no desire to seek it out to see if I’d feel the same way.
Have You Seen Andy is a really good yet simple true crime documentary that goes beyond these two moments. It has all of the elements of a good true crime film with only the big disappointment of not having a resolution.
I love a good mystery in true crime. I also want the comeuppance in the final act.
9/11: The Fifth Plane Documentary Review, A New Conspiracy to Wrap Our Heads Around
I love a good conspiracy theory. Convincing me it’s true is another ordeal. In 9/11: The Fifth Plane we’re presented with the brief story of how one plane may have been a fifth target on September 11.
This is a very short documentary and quite frankly, I don’t think it deserves a full-scale review like I’ll normally do. It was more of a brief episode of a larger show. Presented by TMZ, this is a buzzy documentary that didn’t go to the levels of MH370: The Plane That Disappeared but capture my attention just as much.
Why 9/11: The Fifth Plane is a documentary worth watching
This was actually the second of two 9/11 documentaries I watched on this day. After watching An Eye for an Eye on Amazon, I headed over to Hulu to continue watching the true crime television show from Canada, Crime Beat. Eager to get angry about how Canada just loves to give light sentences to child murderers (sarcasm), I saw they had a new program called 9/11: The Fifth Plane. It was calling to me. This was destiny.
The story is pretty simple. We hear from different crew members on the flight out of JFK and the suspicious passengers on board. The documentary runs about 40 minutes so we only hear what should’ve been the basis behind the investigation. Unfortunately, this isn’t a big web. This is just a light sting of intrigue.
If true, this might be the biggest part of 9/11 no one has really discussed. Four planes were known to have been hijacked. After watching this documentary, you might be convinced the plot on 9/11 included at least one more aircraft.
By chance and a crew member’s insistence that the terrorists get some food for their flight, further disaster is avoided. I would’ve loved for this documentary to at least extend to a good hour and a half runtime if not more. Instead, I’ll settle with what I get.
I hate to give this any sort of score because it felt so incomplete. But I’ll leave you with an answer to the most important question: is this worth 40 minutes of your time?
An Eye for an Eye Documentary Review, 9/11 Vengeance Rampage of Mark Stroman
Let’s clear up one thing right away. Mark Stroman and Marcus Stroman are two very different people. The one in the documentary An Eye for an Eye is a bit more sinister, at least at the start of things. If you’ve followed the ballplayer on social media, you’ll know he can get himself into a different kind of trouble.
After the 9/11 attacks, Stroman goes from a seemingless innocent enough man to one on a mission of vengeance. He claims he’s out to kill Muslims and even successfully kills one man while wounding another. Later on, the wounded man comes to his defense while Stroman is put on death row. The documentary covers Stroman’s crimes, transformation, and whether or not he should be put to death.
This is another one of the usual documentaries on capital punishment and whether it is just. I’m not here to answer those bolder questions. I’m here to let you know if this one is worth watching.
What was good about An Eye for an Eye
I love this premise. I’m a big fan of documentaries about 9/11 fallout, as strange as it may seem. I haven’t written about it yet but The Woman Who Wasn’t There is one of my favorite low-budget documentaries. It’s about a woman who claims she survived the 9/11 attacks. The title gives it away. She wasn’t present.
An Eye for an Eye is a more sinister crime on a similar lower budget. I really enjoyed seeing the people who interact with Stroman. People of all races, sexual orientations, and other beliefs have come together to show the man love and support. Unfortunately, the crimes are in Texas where you can get a life sentence for not saying “excuse me” loud enough.
We get a different look at death row in this documentary. Into the Abyss is another superb documentary about the death penalty but this one includes some of the aftermath. Spoiler Alert: Stroman is put to death and we actually see his lifeless body on a gurney. It was actually a bit horrifying in its own way.
In its own non-flashy way, An Eye for an Eye is memorable enough. It didn’t leave a lasting impression, however, I enjoyed most of it.
What could have made An Eye for an Eye better
There was very little drama in this documentary. The only arc is whether or not they can get Stroman off the hook for the death penalty by circumnavigating the law. It didn’t have much intensity. The whole documentary is very matter of fact.
Learning more about what made Stroman a racist and how much he changed would’ve added an extra element to this. Because it is just one film, much of this is presented in a “need to know” style. I didn’t feel like we ever fully understood who he was before, during, or after the crimes. He’s still an enigma.
The relationships Stroman made after the crimes definitely needed to be looked into more. Why do all of these people feel the need to connect with him? It’s an entirely different question to raise. The documentary felt more like a flesh wound than sharp and piercing.
Is An Eye for an Eye worth watching?
I’d recommend it but not glowingly. It goes by fast and it’s different from many other documentaries. It doesn’t try to answer any question of “why” which kind of hurts it. It’s more of a “how do we prevent this from happening again” but not really.
Overall Score: 6 out of 10
I liked this documentary but it also didn’t seem to achieve much of anything. We have a fascinating case of a vigilante who seemed to rehabilitate himself. What makes it suffer most is how many different approaches and storylines they present without really getting too involved into any single part.
True Crime Documentary Beast of Bangalore: Indian Predator Review, The Sins of Umesh Reddy
Beast of Bangalore: Indian Predator is the true crime documentary about an alleged sexual predator and murderer in India during the late 1990s named Umesh Reddy. The documentary covers multiple crimes of his and several escapes he made while imprisoned.
Reddy is cunning and more clever than those assigned to watch over him. There’s nothing especially unique or different about his story. Is this a true crime documentary worth watching?
Why Beast of Bangalore may not be worth watching
We don’t actually learn the full extent of Reddy’s crimes. Many of his victims were too scared to come forward at all. Others simply didn’t want to be involved in the documentary. He’s certainly beastly with the information we do get. However, it does seem like the sheer numbers of terrors he committed are somewhat ignored in this film.
Part of the blame does seem to fall on investigators and the society in which he committed these vulgar acts. As the documentary progresses, we hear more from women who explain the shame the Indian society has for victims of sexual assault. It’s part of the reason why he was able to get away with so much. Rather than tell authorities of the assaults, many victims report the crime as theft. He is a burglar, but he’s also much worse.
Beast of Bangalore does portray Reddy as a manipulative predator with fetishes driving him to commit the crimes. It does fall short as a film series.
The major twist in this series was that Reddy is actually a police officer in training. The lead-up and reveal of this wasn’t done as effectively as it should have happened. The documentary was scattered, beginning with a crime later brought up at the end of the film. The timeline wasn’t steady enough and many of the crimes covered seemed to blend together too much.
Beast of Bangalore doesn’t deliver the kinds of punches I look to see in a true crime documentary. I didn’t feel much after watching it. There was little doubt he committed the crimes. Was this simply a disconnect because of the dubbed audio?
A good true crime documentary will have some sort of agenda or mission. Beast of Bangalore missed at dedicating this film to all of the women who were too afraid to speak up. This should have been a main point of the film. Instead, it’s brushed over lightly as is the trial.
The documentary felt too much like they were trying to cram a lot of information into three parts and yet they were regularly repeating information about the case. The presentation didn’t make for a good enough film.
Overall Score: 4 out of 10
Beast of Bangalore is a simple true crime series lacking anything truly remarkable to say about it.
True Crime Documentary Two Worlds Colliding is an Incomplete Film, Here’s an Incomplete Review
It was probably the release and popularity of Making A Murderer which created the true crime documentary BOOM! We can credit streaming services for continuing it. The availability to go back and watch old documentaries made with blood, sweat, and tears was easier. What’s more, anyone with a camera and a police file could film one.
That’s kind of how I feel about Two Worlds Colliding. This is a documentary about police in Canada accused of picking up Indigenous people and dropping them off in the middle of nowhere during the harsh winter. With a run time of less than an hour, I knew exactly what I was getting into. The fact that it is already almost 20 years old was another hint.
Two Worlds Colliding is an example of an incomplete documentary
The story in Two Worlds Colliding is a good one. Several men have either been found dead in below zero temperatures in Saskatoon. A survivor claims two police officers are the ones who picked him up for no reason and then made him exit the car.
The poor treatment of their Indigenous people is something Canadian history would like to forget. In another more recent true crime documentary I watched, Murder in Big Horn, we see how this is a prevalent problem in the United States, too.
Writing about Two Worlds Colliding is hardly worth it. Giving this barely-feature film a complete autopsy would be a waste of tax payer money. I’m not even going to bother scoring it because it was as unfinished as I expected.
Made with a low-budget, subpar narration, and only surface wounds of the case, it served as yet another reminder of how lucky we are that the genre has improved so much in recent years even if 2022 wasn’t great.
Killing County Documentary Review, A Colin Kaepernick Production on Trigger Happy Bakersfield Cops
When I saw Colin Kaepernick was associated with Killing County, I thought I was going to get something self-righteous and slanted. As much as I want to agree with every point he makes, the man loves nothing more than the attention he gets for it.
Killing County was different. Someone was smart to let him executive produce but not do much else. His fingerprints aren’t all over this. Killing County is much less about activism and more about some trigger happy cops in Bakersfield, California.
You may already have an idea of where I’m slanting with this documentary. It passed the “better than expected” test. Would I still recommend it?
What was good about Killing County
The three parts flew by. Seriously. I don’t think I checked once if the episode was almost over. I can’t think of a better use of time than what they did with Killing County. It moves quickly, doesn’t slow down at any moment, and other than the first episode where it’s unclear what the main story is, everything was easy to follow.
Killing County raises the important issue of police overstepping their authority and shooting unarmed people. Multiple examples are provided with Bakersfield, California as the setting for where way too many of these shootings take place.
This isn’t a true crime documentary in the way many of my favorites are. This is more about a corrupt system and how the people who are supposed to protect us get a little too out of control.
Killing County wasn’t my favorite documentary I’ve seen but it was a pleasurable experience. It had a purpose. I finished it angry.
What would have made Killing County better
A little more structure would have made this a much better documentary. Instead of throwing a bunch of cases at us quickly, slowing things down just a tad would have helped it start off better. The documentary almost got too caught up in delivering too much early on. I appreciate a slow burn.
Killing County had a lot of ways where it could have expanded. Three episodes almost didn’t seem like enough. We don’t really get to know any of the victims. We also don’t get to see much from the other side. I won’t deduct points for the latter. I have a feeling the police would rather not get involved in any projects like this.
Is Killing County worth watching?
I’m going to kneel down and give a thumbs up for this one. I was actually surprised by how much I did end up enjoying it. The topic can get a little too social justice warrior for me at times. This documentary brilliantly presented their case and avoided getting too preachy or sappy.
There’s a problem in Bakersfield. Innocent people are getting shot by police. Something needs to be done to stop this. It’s that simple.
Overall Score: 7 out of 10
I have a feeling I’ll forget about Killing County in a week. Because so much was discussed, I hardly remember the main story of the documentary about the Ramirez family. In a way, Killing County is like one of those movies with no one easy to describe plot. It’s all over the place but focused on a singular message.
True Crime Documentary Cropsey Review, Staten Island Boogeyman Andre Rand
I was watching a series on Hulu about missing people when the director of Cropsey popped up to talk about a different case taking place at the Willowbrook State School in Staten Island. Intrigued because I kind of recall seeing something about Cropsey in the past, I made it my documentary to watch the following day.
This is already a somewhat older documentary that doesn’t have the same flair as many of the newer ones. Pleasantly surprised, it lived up to its billing and the strong review it got back in 2009 when it was released.
What was good about Cropsey
I love a short true crime documentary title. Give me Cropsey. Give me The Staircase. Two Shallow Graves. Let’s not give away the entire story after the colon. Keep it simple stupid.
Cropsey is more than a simple title. It’s the case of Andre Rand, a convicted felon, who may be one of the most monstrous murderers in New York City history. There is some doubt about his involvement and whether or not accomplices helped him in his heinous crimes throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
Rand’s victims are children with some sort of mental disability. A known drifter who lived on the grounds of the Willowbrook State School, a housing facility for the mentally disabled, he is clearly a top suspect in all of the murders, kidnappings, and disappearances of the children. He was actually an employee there and as we learn late in this documentary, he feels like a victim of the harsh conditions at the facility as well.
Cropsey is so simply made it’s almost admirable they were able to pull off something so spooky that holds up today. There’s a sense of Beware the Slenderman at the beginning with the titular Cropsey being a legendary figure in Staten Island as the region’s boogeyman. We’re set up with this documentary as if it’s an episode of the podcast Lore. What we get, instead, is a very true and proven series of crimes.
True crime documentaries pre-dating the boom of streaming services can be really hit and miss. There came a point when sensationalizing stories was more of the norm rather than good filmmaking. Cropsey is good documentary filmmaking. Joshua Zeman and Barbara Branaccio are heavily featured yet they never make the story about them. This is about Jennifer Schweiger, Holly Ann Hughes, and other potential victims of Rand. We’re allowed to make our own judgment about his guilt or innocence. Rand makes it easy to come to one conclusion.
What could have made Cropsey better
Man, on the budget they had which was obviously pretty low, there isn’t much more they could’ve done better. This is a person-on-the-street type of documentary where Zeman and Branaccio do their best to interview as many people as possible. They even communicate with Rand and attempt to get an interview.
Cropsey could have been a docuseries as opposed to a single film. A larger connection to David Berkowitz and the satanic cult he was allegedly involved in could’ve had its very own episode. It seemed the satanic angle was only slightly touched on.
For what Cropsey is, there aren’t too many ways to improve it that I can reasonably think of.
Is Cropsey worth watching?
This one was much better than I thought it was going to be. It’s old but holds up. Parts of it will stick with me after because of how eerie the story is.
Overall Score: 9 out 10
Cropsey won’t blow any true crime fanatic out of the water. Its greatest strength is how the filmmakers get heavily involved with the case. They aren’t just reporting what happened decades earlier. They’re trying to figure out the real truth. This makes Cropsey compelling as we get to explore the underground tunnels of the Willowbrook State School and a potential crime scene that still looks fresh.
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.
Alford Pleas for Smug Defendants: Michael Peterson vs. Damien Echols
Michael Peterson and Damien Echols are easily two of the most famous main characters in true crime documentary history. Peterson is the leading man in The Staircase with Echols appearing as the primary defendant in the Paradise Lost trilogy alongside Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley.
Peterson and Echols have more in common than their Errol Flynn-like ability to get top billing in a true crime documentary. Each was smug on the stand to the point where it may have eventually hurt them in the trial.
Peterson and Echols couldn’t be much different yet the same. They thought they knew better than everyone else. Both would serve time behind bars before eventually agreeing to an Alford Plea.
Going completely off just what we saw in the documentaries, who was the smuggiest Alford Plea true crime character in film history?
The case against Michael Peterson from The Staircase
Peterson is so unlikable that he comes across as the type of person who doesn’t even realize what a jerk he is and may have never experienced it a day in his life. What made The Staircase so compelling was how we could see him interact with his family and lawyers during and after the trial. At very few points does Peterson ever seem like an endearing fellow. He does appear to care about his children in some way. Aside from that, it’s his personality that makes him a true crime documentary legend for all of the wrong reasons.
Peterson even seems to hold back at times from being the entitled person he believes he is. He has done well in life. He really does appear to be someone who thinks he is better than everyone else and could commit the perfect crime then get away with it.
To the credit of the filmmakers, it’s not editing to create this villain. Peterson is nearly Robert Durst level of buffoon. In the end, I’m still not convinced of his guilt or innocence. Am I too blinded by his character?
The case against Damien Echols in Paradise Lost
In the Paradise Lost films, we see how Echols doesn’t come from a rich family nor has he experienced enough life to have a full understanding of how people might perceive his cockiness. Echols is a teenage goth in the early 1990s who has to live out his healthiest years in a prison. He puts up a front. I’m not sure Paradise Lost ever shows his real personality at any point. He goes from an arrogant teenager to whatever character it is he creates for himself as a prisoner in the second two films.
For a kid to go on the stand and present himself this way, I think it absolutely helped convict him. Misskelley and Baldwin were always the far more timid defendants whose personalities felt more innocent. Echols comes across as the friend who would say “Don’t worry, I got this” and then try to belittle the judge. Echols has swagger in all of the wrong places. He’s not likable. He only became a folk hero because so many others who felt misrepresented in society could relate.
In the latter two parts of Paradise Lost, we do see a more mature version of him, partly because he has a haircut. There is some personal growth as one would naturally think there is for someone aging behind bars. Has he learned his lesson in prison that smugness gets you nowhere or is he the ultimate manipulator?
The Verdict: Michael Peterson is more annoying
I don’t know who is more smug but Peterson takes the cake when it comes to annoyingness. There’s just something about certain people. Although my feelings about the guilt or innocence in both cases are about the same, this isn’t about the trial and evidence in the crimes. This is about being a kind human being with a sense of how people feel about you.
Peterson, the far older of the two challengers in this true crime fight, should know better. Echols has the built-in excuse of being a kid. Misunderstood youth is a far better defense than “an owl did it so why are you looking at me?”
Let’s hand the trophy to Peterson. He’s the smuggest of the two.