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Plus: Your weekend true-crime watches (and a question)
It’s a very Netflix-y weekend for those interested in true crime. There are three releases I’m particularly interested in — two that dropped on Wednesday, and one that made its debut today.
Folks with kinder schedules than mine have probably checked out Escaping Twin Flames already. Pitched as “a Sinister Love Story for the Digital Age,” this three-parter comes from the people who brought us Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult. The filmmakers say that after their NXIVM report was released, they were flooded with messages from people with similar experiences with other cults, and “the stories of the survivors and families impacted by Twin Flames Universe emerged as the most urgent to expose.”
I had never even heard of the whole “twin flame” idea so I’m already intrigued, and that a couple apparently leveraged this bullshit romantic idea into an alleged cult is even more fascinating. If you’ve already watched, what did you think?
Turning from lovey-dovey nonsense, we have Cyberbunker: The Criminal Underworld. I’m just going to give you the media blurb:
Two worlds collide in an idyllic German tourist town: a group of mysterious Dutchmen around their eccentric leader Xennt want to take over the vast NATO bunker under the town. He promises the small village a prosperous future and hundreds of jobs.But some residents are worried and rumors spread through the village: Is Xennt, the charismatic man with long blond hair and a black leather coat, actually a ruthless criminal on the run who wants to turn the bunker into a stronghold for drug trafficking? The people of Traben-Trarbach turn to the police - but in vain: despite all warnings, the bunker is sold. Xennt and his gang entrench themselves hundreds of meters underground. They call their new home CyberBunker 2.0. What the inhabitants couldn’t yet know - a portal to the underworld opens up under Traben-Trarbach.
I am sure I’m not the only person thinking “portal like a hellmouth?” But this is actually an adaptation of a 2020 New Yorker story (which I am 90% sure we discussed here) headlined “The Cold War Bunker That Became Home to a Dark-Web Empire.” Obviously, most of this doc is not going to be in English, so this seems best saved for when you can look at the screen and do a little reading (aka Not A Knitting Show).
Finally David Fincher’s fictional crime film, The Killer, hits Netflix today. It stars Michael Fassbender, who we haven’t seen onscreen since 2019 — but who has two movies coming out at this moment.
The timing of his hiatus from movies has always struck me as auspicious. In 2018, news broke that his ex-girlfriend, Sunawin “Leasi” Andrews, had made some serious allegations of domestic violence as part of a restraining order request in 2010. Part of court filing said that he’d dragged her with his car, after which she “went to the hospital and had a twisted left ankle, blown out left knee cap and a bursted ovarian cyst,” IndieWire reported in 2018.
In another incident, she says he struck her with a chair, breaking her nose, The Daily Beast reported at the time. These claims first came to light via TMZ when they were filed, but as Fassbender’s career flourished they were ignored. Andrews has never commented on her filing (she told TDB “You’ve got the paperwork. What more is there to say?”), and Fassbender hasn’t addressed the claims.
Fast forward to today, and that filing has been resurfaced by pubs like Buzzfeed, but — as far as I can tell — larger outlets aren’t touching the now-13-year-old claims against him. I don’t think this is a coordinated conspiracy or anything like that: Fassbender isn’t a big enough deal to command silence the way some stars might have at some pre-#MeToo time. But the way the allegations are out there, unanswered by Fassbender, troubles me. They’re a cloud over his work (and those who choose to work with him), and comparable actors, like Armie Hammer or Johnny Depp, have lost roles or their careers for allegations and situations that seem just as credibly claimed. What gives, do you think? — EB
The Secrets of the JFK Assassination Archive [Intelligencer]
JFK “season” continues with this longread — and, friends, it is loooong — on not just the slaying and Lee Harvey Oswald’s oft-debated role in the assassination plot but about how we’re less comfortable adopting conspiracy theories these days. Well, at least some of us are! But reporter Jefferson Morley arguably uncovered evidence supporting a CIA coverup in the 1990s. So why isn’t this more of a thing? That’s what this in-depth report seeks to uncover. This is a very detailed item, so read it when you’re feeling fresh. — EB
How to Hijack a Quarter of a Million Dollars in Rare Japanese Kit Kats [NY Times gift link]
Danny Taing, the owner of a Japanese snack subscription box company, spent $110,000 on 55,000 “rare” Kit-Kats with flavors like melon, matcha latte and daifuku mochi. His expectation was to flip those for $250,000 — a little better than a 50% margin, which is less than Marcus Lemonis’s recommended 70% but still pretty damn good for a food-item upsell. But once the candy arrived in the U.S., they fell prey to a scam that was new to me!
The Bokksu Kit Kats are just one instance of an increasingly common computer-based form of fraud that some experts call “fictitious pickups” or “strategic theft.” It’s part identity theft, part extortion. The freight, sometimes called a “hostage load,” can vanish if the extortion demands are not met.
“The more you unpeel the onion, the worse it gets,” said Keith Lewis, the vice president of operations at CargoNet, which is part of global data analytics and technology provider, Verisk. He said that strategic cargo theft is up 700 percent this year.
“The supply chain is moving at the speed of light,” he said, adding, “The bad guys are playing chess and we’re playing checkers. We’re two or three steps behind them.”
Now half the Kit Kat load is languishing in a California storage unit, which refuses to release the load to anyone but the person (aka a scammer) who first rented the space. The other half is gone in the wind. — EB
‘Monster Inside’ Filmmaker Responds to McKamey Manor Probe [The Hollywood Reporter]
Paid subscribers know that I reviewed Monster Inside last month, and my take was mixed — in my opinion, it relied too much on repetitive images of trauma, when the information on claims against “haunted house” magnate Russ McKamey could have been communicated more efficiently, and with greater context for a general case against him.
Now I think I know why the documentarians chose the approach they did, as director Andrew Renzi tells THR he essentially applied horror film tropes to his film, as he “thought that it would be a really fulfilling challenge as a director to try and find a story that could be a bit of a new thing, a true genre film that happens to be entirely real.” There’s something a little chilling about how Renzi says stuff like:
There are so many aspects to real life that are way scarier than anything you could write in a script. That’s why the genre world has such a preoccupation with found footage. They’ve been trying to make horror films look like docs forever. So why hadn’t the doc world taken notice yet?
…but perhaps I’m being a little bit of a killjoy — or too precious — about the line between entertainment and onscreen journalism. — EB
Next week on Best Evidence: American Sports Story, Mormons, and mushrooms.
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