Mindhunter on Netflix

Netflix’s forthcoming series Mindhunter looks interesting. It is based on a 1997 book by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker about the early years of criminal profiling.

The period is the 1970s. It sees actors Jonathan Groff, Anna Torv and Holt McCallany as FBI agents who interview serial killers – to scepticism from colleagues – to gain insight into their natures.

It was during the Seventies, a time when mass killers such as America’s Ted Bundy emerged, that the FBI and various criminologists/psychologists began to study such predators in earnest.

Mindhunter has an intriguing premise

When the Nude Murders occurred in London during the 1960s the term serial killer was unknown. Criminal profiling was in its infancy. This was one of the questions about the huge investigation that intrigued me when researching The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper. To what extent did that lack of profiling expertise behind the failure to catch this devious killer?

Netflix series Mindhunter

Mindless? The series is about FBI men trying to get into the head of serial killers

FBI instructor Robert Ressler is credited as the first person to call the murderers of strangers ‘serial killers’. It was while he was lecturing British officers at the UK’s Bramshill police academy that he heard mention of crimes being in a ‘series’.

The definition is open to interpretation, but it is generally accepted that a serial killer murders, often with premeditation, at least three people over a period of more than 30 days. The FBI would eventually produce its Crime Classification Manual with broad categories for such killers – organised, disorganised and mixed.

Directed by David Fincher

So, Mindhunter is looking at a fascinating period when interest in the psychology of psychopaths really got going. Unfortunately, the trailer makes it look lurid and sensationalist.

It starts with a shot of a partially clad dead woman with splayed legs. We hear what could be its tagline: ‘It’s not easy butchering people.’ It has the hallmarks of many TV crime series with their obsession over killers and lack of interest in victims.

Mindhunter stars Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany and Anna Torv

Three episode are directed by David Fincher, who also made Gone Girl, The Social Network and Zodiac. With so many strong TV series around these days, it would be a shame if this eagerly awaited show disappoints.

Will it be a fascinating story, looking at why psychopathic mindsets flourish in modern societies – or will it just go for the bleeding obvious?

Starting on Netflix: 13 October

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