A gripping true crime story that looks at what happens when someone confesses to hundreds of crimes he likely never committed.
True Crime has been having its moment for a little while now. Nothing quite gives an audience a shudder like seeing real-life monsters come to life and amongst the usual scare stories and cautionary tales, it is unusual to find much left that is surprising in the genre at this point. We are all familiar with the man wrongly accused of murder, but what about the man who has wrongly confessed? The Confession Killer (Netflix) picks up on one such case and explores the consequences, both to the families and legal system that were so keen to hear his confession.
In the 1980’s Henry Lee Lucas became notorious for being America’s most prolific serial killer with his victims numbering in the hundreds. The Confession Killer examines the Lucas case and picks through the controversy surrounding many of the murders to which he has confessed. Without getting into too much spoiler-y territory through a combination of sloppy police work, overzealous DA’s and a very unreliable confessor, keen to put off his execution, that Lucas was allowed to take credit for many murders that he likely didn’t actually commit.
It’s easy to see how a show like this got greenlit, it’s got everything that Netflix loves at the moment. True Crime, serial killers, poverty p**n, a whopper of a conspiracy theory and enough twists and turns to satisfy a rollercoaster fanatic. The Confession Killer also benefits enormously from footage captured by a Japanese film crew at the time of the confessions who were making a documentary about Lucas. This footage gives us a close look at Lucas and the police officers he was working with as well as reinforcing just how comfortable and happy he looked in their company.
As expected, there is the usual rotation of talking heads that give us context and reinforce the points being made. There is little room for subtlety here and if you missed a wrinkle in the story the first time you can guarantee that you will get a reminder from a voiceover a few minutes later. I found this a little irritating at times but overall, I am happy to overlook it as the story being told is just so remarkable.
I will leave you to watch the show itself for the details but over the course of its 5 episodes, the narrative unfolds nicely, gradually revealing more and more unexpected developments and tangents. The ramifications of Lucas’ confessions impacted many people in surprising ways. Yet despite this, the filmmakers never forget that at the heart of this story were hundreds of people who lost their lives and whose families may never find justice from a legal system desperate to clear cases in the quickest and easiest way possible.