Dark debuts for Amazon’s ‘Lure’ and Netflix’s ‘Mindhunter’
The filmed-in-Pittsburgh Netflix psychological thriller “Mindhunter,” now streaming on the service, opens with big block letters: BRADDOCK, PENNSYLVANIA.
Aside from a sighting of Oakmont’s Oaks movie theater later in the first hour, that’s about it for a Western Pennsylvania vibe in the early going unless you want to consider the show’s thematic similarities to filmed-inPittsburgh Oscar winner “Silence of the Lambs.”
Regardless of the local vibe or lack thereof, “Mindhunter” offers promise, particularly in its second episode. The debut hour is a bit sluggish as viewers meet and get to know fresh-faced FBI behavioral profiler Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff, “Glee”), who gets labeled a “goody-goody” by a woman he tries to pick up at a bar.
That first hour, written by series creator Joe Penhall (“The Road”) and directed by David Fincher (“House of Cards”), is less propulsive than the premiere episode of Discovery’s recent FBI profiler show, “Manhunt: UNABOMBER,” but what “Mindhunter” lacks in energy it makes up for in better attention to character details.
“Mindhunter” grows significantly more interesting in its second hour once Holden gets paired with veteran FBI agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany, “Lights Out”) and starts interviewing coed killer Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton, who nails a so-serene-it’s creepy vibe). Ford sees Kemper as a “sequential killer” (“Mindhunter” is set in 1977 and “serial killer” is not yet a term thrown around with abandon).
These profiler-killer interview scenes inevitably bring to mind the Starling-Lecter scenes from “Lambs” but with a different skew. There’s no hint of romance with Ford and Kemper, but viewers do watch as Ford, a novice, takes baby steps in learning how to converse with a killer and perhaps even begins to understand, even if just a little bit, how Kemper’s mind works.
There’s tension in these scenes that also contributes to how watchable they are. Kemper is tall and large; Ford is small, thin and sensitive. It’s easy to worry for Ford’s safety, especially when Kemper says matter-of-factly and without any sense of regret that killing is his vocation.
“It’s not easy butchering people,” Kemper says. “It’s hard work, physically and mentally.”
It should be noted while Kemper is based on a real-life serial
killer with the same name, Ford and Tench are fictional characters, though Ford is inspired by real-life FBI profiler John Douglas, author of a book that inspired the series.
Netflix made just two episodes available for review — so far series regular Anna Torv (“Fringe”) has yet to appear — so it’s a little unclear what the show will be as it moves forward. Presumably it’s a characterdriven psychological thriller featuring interviews with a raft of serial killers that, given the presence of Fincher, will probably get darker as it goes.
‘Lore’ comes to Amazon
Speaking of dark, Amazon’s adaptation of the Aaron Mahnke podcast “Lore,” now available, offers some fascinating stories where real life intersects with folklore, but the way the show depicts these tales is incredibly hit-and-miss.
When Amazon’s “Lore” allows Mr. Mahnke to just tell a story, it’s pretty compelling. But when the show dives into dramatic re-creations of stories, “Lore” generally falters. The pacing slows to a crawl and in one episode, “They Made a Tonic,” the drama plays like a local PBS station-worthy attempt at drama.
Amazon made three episodes — half the first season — available for review and the best entry is “Echoes,” shot in black and white, as it details the inventor of the “icepick lobotomy.” Chilling and eerie, if all “Lore” episodes could be like this installment, the show might qualify as a successful podcast-to-TV translation. So far, it’s not.
In “Lore,” Colm Feore is Dr. Walter Freeman, inventor of the transorbital lobotomy.