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Conversations With a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes review – Netflix Docu-series will give you a few nightmares

While the tapes in itself help us understand what a character the serial killer was, the documentary does a fine job of drawing us a picture of some of his most infamous character traits.

  • Akshay Krishna

Last Updated: 01.56 AM, Apr 22, 2022

Conversations With a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes review – Netflix Docu-series will give you a few nightmares

Story: With the help of hours of tape from John Wayne Gacy himself, this docu-series narrates the life of one of the most infamous serial killers in USA’s history. With interviews from investigators, lawyers and victims, we get a detailed account about a man who raped, murdered and buried away atleast 33 young boys and men. 

Review: True crime documentaries are interesting, engaging and haunting when done right, and Netflix’s Conversations With a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes gets it almost right. The show takes the viewer to years back to when children were given the license to roam and when John Wayne Gacy would hunt them down, rape and murder them.

The first episode of the three-part Netflix docu-series starts off with the disappearance of Robert Piest, a teenager in the city of Des Plaines. The investigation soon gets connected to John Wayne Gacy, a reputed businessman, and socialite. The police soon understand that he was incarcerated for sodomy of an underage boy back in Iowa a few years ago. They decide to tighten their grip on him in the hopes of finding Piest, but they end up unearthing a dark, and haunting secret buried away in the crawl space of his house. 

The docu-series comes from Joe Berlinger who brought Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes three years ago to the platform. The director gets most things right and stays true to the true-crime genre (it really helps when there are over 60 hours of tapes of conversation with the actual killer). Each episodes gives us a detailed drawing of Gacy and also shares with us some of his most infamous character traits, such as his rash driving, ego-centric behaviour, and assigning blame on others, even when it came to raping and murdering teenage boys. 

The show also does an excellent job of backing up these traits with Gacy’s own words, psychiatric evaluations, interviews by his victims, the investigation team and his own lawyers at the time. While the first season sets up John Gacy the popular socialite and a man whose marriage has broken down in the past, it also shows us someone who claims to hate homosexuals, but claimst to be a bi-sexual, who in his words, are people who just want to commit to sex with no feelings. 

With the second episode, we understand that his hate is the energy he channels with the life of an abusive father in his childhood and his general anger. The most haunting fact is that when we learn the true gravitas of everything John Gacy has done in his lifetime. Brining kids to his home, Gacy would psychologically torture them and even commit to sexual acts and fellatio. Murdering his first victim in 1972, it is chilling to see how the serial killer assigns the blame on the victim, and just boasting and lying about the details, another one of his character traits. At the time the investigators of Robert Piest close in on him, they unearth a harrowing 26 victims under his crawl space and another three in his backyard. They also find another four that were discarded in the Des Plaines River. John Wayne Gacy was known to have raped, tortured and murdered 33 young boys and men in his time, and the show draws its viewers a scary and haunting picture of all this, often sending a chill down our spine. 

With each episode getting darker, the third episode has the police trying to identify and honour the decomposing bodies theyve found and the trail of the murderer, who would often perform at kids parties as “Pogo The Clown”. He would lure his victims to his house, handcuff them making them believe it's a magic trick and then would strangle them to death. One of the most notorious serial killers of the modern era in the USA, Gacy was convicted for 33 murders and sentenced to death on March 13, 1980. 

The series makes the best use of all the tapes of the serial killer talking to an investigator and also from the interviews with people who knew him and even slipped his cold hands of death. The visuals are often thrown at us with no real connection to it all, but with all that is going on in the background, you just let that pass. Just like the Ted Bundy Tapes, the docu-series strikes true-crime documentary gold and has everything to keep its viewers engaged and in shock. 

The way the narrative often shifts from his life in Illinois to back in the days to Iowa was well done. His personal life, which included two failed marriages, with the second one leading to his killing spree also gives an insight into a man who played judge, jury and executioner to 33 young men. Finding a love in murder, this maniac’s story is so well told, that you will have a tough time forgetting what he has done for some time. 

Verdict: Conversations With a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes is a harrowing docu-series that gets most things right and hits gold with the true-crime documentary genre. The director finds the perfect balance in narrating the serial killer’s story and it is bound to give you a few nightmares. If you are into the genre or serial killers, this is a must-watch.