Tim Travers Hawkins has a few documentaries under his belt, including XY Chelsea, a documentary about, well, obviously, Chelsea Manning. He switches gears from someone famous and benevolent to a notorious yet obscure figure even as someone who dipped into true crime like I did. In fairness, there are too many serial killers for even the most devoted true crime fan out there. So this new documentary, Capturing The Killer Nurse, is a reminder of one of them. This is probably a companion piece to the more fictionalized version of the story, The Good Nurse, which, in this context, is a title with its own double meanings.
Killer Nurse tells its story through reenactments, b-rolls, and narration, the usual thing one expects while looking for a true crime documentary in Netflix. The Good Nurse, which has a sheen of graying darkness throughout. On the other hand, this documentary films its reenactments with green lighting, the shade of it here being the right kind of neo-noir and salacious and sickly. There are also drone shots of the town between the New Jersey and Pennsylvania border. The towns where innocent people live, people who might fall prey under the care of the titular nurse, Charlie Cullen.
Voice over narration also emphasize the urgency of catching Cullen before he strikes again. Watching Capturing the Killer Nurse is both illuminating and frustrating. This is because knowing all the facts makes me wish that fictionalizations of true crime stories stuck more to said facts. It’s also because the kind of facts that this documentary displays can fit in within the fiction. Instead of one good nurse, there is one more besides Amy Loughren. However, fictional dramatizations have their own perks, since The Good Nurse slowly introduces everyone. On the other hand, this documentary hurriedly introduces the story’s major players within the first fifteen minutes.
Capturing the Killer Nurse’s way of storytelling also makes it look cop heavy even if Loughren did as much of the work as the cops did. Another setback that companion documentaries like this have is that viewers will end up comparing it to its dramatic counterpart. Ooh, they’re both doing this scene, etc. And despite its emphasis on the urgency of catching Cullen, it doesn’t make us feel that immediacy. But if anything, Loughren’s interviews save the documentary. There’s something about the way real people like her tell her side of the story, withdrawn, with foresight. And with empathy, even for someone she learns is a monster.
Capturing the Killer Nurse comes soon of Netflix.