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Psycho clowns, crazed killers, murderous monsters: these are often images associated with the phrase “bone chilling.” These images are also frequently the subject of many fictional horror films, and while imagination is a powerful thing, what is even scarier is when these are the subjects real-life documentaries and not just a scary campfire tale.
With Halloween just around the corner, what better way to get in the spooky spirit than binge-watching bone chilling documentaries on Netflix? These are not exaggerated stories intended to scare, but frighteningly true tales of the real world.
Whether you are looking for nurses who kill, priests who perform exorcisms, interviews with dangerous serial killers, or bizarre religious summer camps, we have compiled some of the most chilling Netflix documentaries for your late-night binge, if you dare. These 10 bone chilling documentaries on Netflix will leave you paranoid and looking around every corner.
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What Is a Documentary?
A documentary is a term used to describe a nonfiction film or television series. Unlike fictional horror movies that sometimes draw you in with scary graphics and gruesome scenes, horror documentaries are bone-chilling because they depict real-life and are often rawer. These nonfiction films and television series documentaries portray reality and typically reveal something unusual or interesting. Documentaries tell a story, especially to bring something dark to light.
What Makes Documentaries Bone Chilling?
Documentaries, as opposed to fictional horror films, are bone chilling due to their real-life nature. The vampires and zombies of fictional horror films may not be plausible, but documentaries tell the story or capture what took place in real life. It can sometimes be more difficult to grasp the evil things that take place in the real world or to comprehend the actions of an evil person. Sometimes the evilest of people are your next-door neighbors. Truth, as they say, is, in fact, stranger than fiction.
10 Most Bone Chilling Documentaries On Netflix
Nurses Who Kill
This series of television documentaries from the United Kingdom tells the story of murder in hospitals by nurses who use their position as unsuspecting caregivers to kill. Some used poison while others used lethal doses of drugs. Some denied the killings while others claimed to have killed out of mercy. This series features audio from exclusive interviews, testimonies from top police investigators, and the reconstruction of real-life events to analyze the methods and motives of nurses who harmed and killed patients in their care.
This documentary will keep you on your toes next time you find yourself or a loved one in a hospital.
Hostage to the Devil
Like “The Exorcist” of documentaries, this film tells the tale of Father Malachi, a priest who claimed to have performed several exorcisms. The documentary focuses on Father Malachi’s life in the priesthood and how he ultimately grew to become critical of the Catholic church. Through past video footage and interviews with those who were close to Father Malachi, it questions whether the devil exists and whether people are truly afflicted by demonic possessions.
Different from other documentaries, Cropsey is a horror documentary that follows its filmmakers, Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio, on the journey to solve the mystery of several kidnappings of children that occurred during their childhood in Staten Island. What starts as a simple investigation of an urban legend, “Cropsey,” an escaped mental patient who kidnaps children from the street at night, turns into something much more in-depth and leads to the investigation of five missing children and the monster responsible for their disappearances.
Interview with a Serial Killer
This crime documentary features a jailhouse interview with Arthur Shawcross, also known as the Genesee River Killer. Shawcross murdered 11 women and died in 2008 while serving a 250-year prison sentence. Filmmakers question him about how he killed, his motives for killing, and whether he feels remorse for the crimes he committed. He talks about his renewed relationship with his family, recounts his crimes, and provides a fascinating first-hand look into the mind of a serial killer.
Josef Fritzl: Story of a Monster
Of all the bone-chilling documentaries, this documentary examines a case known as the worst case of abuse ever recorded by a real-life monster, Josef Fritzl. Josef lured his 18-year-old daughter into a basement cell where he held her captive for 24 years, assaulting and raping her repeatedly, and fathering 7 children as a result. The documentary provides unseen personal family footage and photographs and stories from detectives and those closest to him. It focuses on his early life and how he evolved into the monster he became.
The Imposter may be the most eery of the 10 bone chilling documentaries. It features the mysterious disappearance of a 14-year-old Texas boy, Nicholas Barclay, who disappeared from San Antonio, Texas after playing basketball with his friends one day. Nicholas was later presumed dead as authorities never found a body. Three years after his disappearance, he was reunited with his family after being found alone and confused in Spain.
After welcoming Nicholas home, it shocks his family to discover that the blue-eyed, blonde boy is nothing like he was before the disappearance. The documentary is centered on interviews with the family regarding the disappearance and reuniting with their son.
This documentary, by filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, is of a slightly different nature than the other 10 bone chilling documentaries. Jesus Camp gives a glimpse of life at a Christian summer camp, “Kids on Fire.” At this evangelical camp, children take part in programs that encourage them to strengthen their beliefs. They are encouraged to believe they have a “prophetic gift” and that they can take America back to Christ by their undying faith and political activism.
It follows several children as they prepare to attend summer camp and includes interviews with the camp’s founder, Becky Fischer who discusses her mission for indoctrinating kids into ministry.
Confessions of Thomas Quick
Another serial killer documentary that is the most equally frightening and intriguing of the documentaries, Confessions Of Thomas Quick, tells the story of Sweden’s most infamous serial killer. Thomas Quick, whose real name is Sture Ragnar Bergwall, confessed to committing over 30 murders but then redrew his confessions several years later.
Quick, a patient of a psychiatric hospital confessed to a therapist various gruesome crimes including rape, murder, and even cannibalism and then later withdrew his statements, returning to his real name and claiming his alter ego, Thomas Quick, responsible for committing these heinous acts was dead. This film looks at the disturbing findings of how these events came to happen and what drives a man to commit such acts that have haunted a nation for years.
The Nightmare, a horror documentary by Rodney Ascher, focuses on the horrifying subject of sleep paralysis, a state where you are trapped between sleep and waking. Those who suffer from sleep paralysis are temporarily unable to speak, move, or react to anything while falling asleep or waking and will often have physical experiences or terrifying hallucinations.
The film follows eight people who suffer from sleep paralysis and cannot move but are aware of their surroundings. Although very different from one another, all eight people claim to see a similar shadow figure, leading many to believe sleep paralysis is more than just a disorder. The documentary explores the experiences of these eight individuals and what they have gone through because of sleep paralysis.
Making a Murderer
Filmed over a ten-year period, this documentary is arguably the most popular television documentary series responsible for launching a true crime craze. This documentary series follows Steven Avery, a man from Wisconsin who served 18 years in prison for wrongful conviction of sexual assault and attempted murder and was exonerated in 2003 based on DNA evidence.
The series also follows Steven Avery’s nephew who was charged with murder because he confessed under coerced interrogation and a strong focus on proving that Steven is a scapegoat for crimes he did not commit by the use of recordings, police reports, and court documents.
Perhaps horror documentaries are scarier because they are real-life horrors and not a product of the imagination. Horror documentaries do not need special effects, ominous music, or gimmicks to frighten audiences. We seem to be able to recount all the horrific details of a real-life horror every time we have a sleepless night.
Next time you are looking for a good scary flick, look no further than a scary documentary. While ghouls and goblins may not exist, serial killers, sleep paralysis, and exorcisms exist in the real world, as proved by these 10 bone chilling documentaries. They leave your mind anxious and wondering if these events could ever happen to you and how you might react if they did. If ax-wielding masked-men or flesh-feeding zombies do not scare you, surely the thought of a murderous nurse or an interview with a serial killer will have you sleeping with the lights on.