Unleashing the Darkness: The Shocking Tale of Cyberstalkers and a Serial Murderer
By Citlalli Juárez (@citlallijuarez)
It’s an ordinary day just like any other. You’re scrolling through your Facebook feed, liking a few photos of your friends, chuckling at some memes, and barely skimming through the news headlines. Suddenly, something catches your eye. People are buzzing about a certain heart-wrenching video. Someone in a group you belong to posts the link, accompanied by an unusual description: “Here’s the video. It will probably be taken down soon…” Curiosity gets the best of you, despite the countless comments warning you not to watch it. You click on the link, skeptical but intrigued. The page loads, and on your screen plays a video of a man playing with two kittens on a bed. Everything seems innocent, like those adorable animal videos the internet loves so much. But then, the man puts the cats in a plastic bag and starts suffocating them with a vacuum cleaner.
In 2010, social media was shaken by the release of the video ‘1 Guy 2 Kittens,’ showcasing the brutal murder of two innocent felines. This video became the catalyst and central theme of Netflix’s series, *Don’t f*ck with cats.
Don’t Mess with Cats is a three-episode documentary series that chronicles the story of killer Luka Magnotta and his descent into a life of crime through a series of videos posted online. Luka escalated his brutality by torturing and killing cats before gaining the infamous title of the “Canadian Cat Killer.” Eventually, he committed murder, dismembered the victim’s body, sent body parts to Canadian politicians, and uploaded a video of the crime on the internet. Simultaneously, the series delves into the story of a group of cyber-sleuths, who, driven by outrage, dedicate themselves to uncovering the identity of the “kitten killer.” They decipher clues in the videos, track down photographs, analyze writing styles, and employ various techniques akin to professional investigators in their quest for justice.
This late 2019 series quickly became one of Netflix’s biggest hits in the true-crime genre, following in the footsteps of documentaries such as The Ted Bundy Tapes and Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez. Its success can be attributed to stellar production values, skillful storytelling, and captivating development.
One of the greatest strengths of this docuseries lies in its editing. The series blends interviews, archival footage, and mostly recreations of the interactions and conversations of the vigilante group through social media platforms. Hearing a woman describe the unsettling scenes in the infamous cat video allows viewers to witness the collective anger expressed by countless online users demanding justice. This perspective provides a deeper understanding of the video’s impact during its time. Similarly, the remote search for the staircase where Luka was last seen turns into an intense chase scene, adding to the overall impact through masterful editing.
Another triumph of the series is its storytelling. The story unfolds gradually, revealing crucial information that allows viewers to draw their own deductions. Just when the tension builds, and the audience believes they know what will happen next, the narrative takes a dramatic turn, often leaving viewers on a cliffhanger until the next episode. Don’t Mess with Cats excels at keeping audiences eagerly anticipating the resolution of the story. However, it is worth noting that the creators took several narrative liberties, such as the alleged threat towards one of the cyber-investigators after receiving a video of her workplace, without explaining how the perpetrator managed to find her. There are also some arguably forced connections made between the killer and the movie Basic Instinct (1992), among other somewhat dramatized assumptions.
Beyond these achievements and missteps, the series forces viewers to reflect on their own introspection. From the opening minutes, it is established that the killer is a highly narcissistic individual who would revel in a pursuit akin to Catch Me If You Can (2002), in which Leonardo DiCaprio portrays a cunning forger evading the FBI for years. Later on, it becomes clear that he also craves attention to the point of fabricating rumors about a relationship with Karla Homolka, one of Canada’s most notorious killers, just to gain fame in the media. The warning is set from the early moments: this individual thrives on attention.
As a result, the docuseries concludes by posing the most uncomfortable question viewers could face: To what extent are we responsible for the birth of a killer?
While it is true that the internet is an immense realm with millions of users, and we cannot control the content others upload, we are responsible for the material we consume and share. In this regard, were the cyber-investigators the audience that Magnotta craved? Did they unwittingly motivate him to continue his murderous path?
If we contemplate these questions within the context of our current society and the way we handle social media, who ultimately bears more responsibility? Is it the person who commits a crime or the spectator who continues to share violent content, generating views and creating an audience for these individuals?
Ultimately, Don’t Mess with Cats compels us to confront the uncomfortable truth embedded within its narrative—an unsettling truth that calls for self-reflection and an examination of our role in shaping the world we inhabit.
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