(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Series: John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise
Where You Can Stream It: Peacock
The Pitch: A docuseries focused on the crimes of John Wayne Gacy, a serial killer who murdered at least 33 young men and boys and buried most of them under his house.
Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: You probably know the name John Wayne Gacy, and you probably know that at some point, he dressed up as a clown. This immediately mutated into a story about how Gacy was a “killer clown,” carrying out his acts in full make-up like the real-life version of Pennywise from It. But that’s not what happened. The clown stuff was only incidental; the true story is a lot more horrifying, and tragic, and John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise does a great job covering it all.
I watch a lot of true crime stuff, and I have become weary of the genre as of late. Thanks mostly to Netflix, true crime docuseries are booming, and it seems like every other week there’s a new multi-part series delving into some sort of unspeakable crime. Unfortunately, more often than not, many of these recent entries in the world of true crime are painfully lackluster. They either focus on an unsolved crime and bring absolutely nothing new to the case, or they sprawl on for padded episodes that repeat themselves. It’s frustrating.
Thankfully, John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise has arrived to show that there are still worthy entries in the world of true crime docuseries. The series goes on for six episodes, which seems like a lot. And yet, each episode is so well-researched and so definitive that Devil in Disguise never buckles under its own weight. If you know nothing about Gacy, or even if you’re well-versed in his deeds, this series will still provide plenty of value.
It’ll also shock and horrify, primarily as it focuses on how Gacy was able to get away with so many murders for so long. He preyed on young men who could easily be written off as drifters or runaways. On top of that, he was a very active member of his community, and even part of local Chicago politics. No one in a million years would suspect him of doing the things he did – even though he already had a previous criminal conviction for the assault of a teenage boy. Gacy was sentenced to 10 years in prison for that crime and yet, despite all odds and logic, he only served 18 months before being released. Once out, his crimes only escalated.
Devil in Disguise attempts to explain how that could happen. It also takes great care in giving voice to Gacy’s victims and underscoring the loss of life, something so many more sensationalized true crime docs overlook. Also here is the footage of a lengthy interview Gacy gave in prison, giving us a front-row seat into his mind. If you’re burned out on the current trend of seemingly pointless true crime sagas, give Devil in Disguise a try. Believe it or not, there actually are things to watch on Peacock.
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