It might be difficult to do away with true crime entirely, but conversations in true crime spaces have recently tried to ethically engage with the topics at hand. True crime at its worst is titillating and exploitative, or, as is the case with the recent TikTok detective craze, prone to convincing everyday people that no expertise or resources are needed to solve a case, and that public theory-sharing is little more than a game. At its best, though, it’s designed to do what the systems that were meant to protect victims failed to do: Galvanizing support for vulnerable people (several of the LISK-related victims were sex workers and one may have been a trans woman), stepping up when the cops won’t, and exploring the systematic injustice that leads to some cases being solved while other files sit gathering dust.
To date, at least three movies have been made about the Long Island Serial Killer investigation, and they run the gamut from one end of the true-crime spectrum to the other. The first, a nearly two-hour film that has been uploaded to YouTube in its entirety by director Joseph DiPietro, is a shoestring-budget indie movie that begins with a Giallo-like scene of a bare-breasted woman being strangled by the hand of an offscreen man. “Being a fan of cheap 70’s exploitation films based on true crimes,” DiPietro says in the 2021 upload’s description, “I decided to bang out one about the Long Island serial killings.” Though DiPietro says he didn’t look into the real victims and “focused on humanizing instead of exploiting,” it’s pretty clear that this is not meant as a responsible telling of true events.