Director/writer Mark Lewis, who previously took on survival strategies in a 2009 five-episode miniseries “Surviving Disaster” (mall shooting, home invasion, hijacking, lost at sea and fire), takes a deep dive into Internet amateur detective work through the eyes of two people, Deanna Thompson and John Green, who met via Facebook on the hunt of a kitten killer.
Thompson is our narrator who knows that “The Internet is boundless” and it is the “Wild West.” Yet from the beginning, in the first episode “Cat and Mouse,” Lewis lets us know this is more than a documentary about cats, but involves a crime that rises to the level of international policing concern. Using archival clips from a variety of English language news programs about an international manhunt, Lewis quickly sums up the case that Thompson says, “It plays out like a slasher movie.” A man was murdered and the suspect allegedly also tortured cats.
Computer nerd Thompson, who works in Las Vegas as a data analyst for gambling machines, recalls seeing a gruesome YouTube video, “1 boy 2 kittens” from a discussion link on Facebook. The video portrays a camera person showing a young, white man placing two kittens in a vacuum-sealing plastic bag and then attaching the vacuum hose to suck out all of the air, suffocating two small kittens.
According to Thompson, rule zero of the Internet is “Don’t f**k with cats.” The same can probably said for dogs, I’m sure, but kittens were the target of this killer. Anyone who has been in the middle of an animal cruelty storm knows that people can be mean, nasty and hysterical when protesting and that some animal rights organizations like PETA or even rescues like the Arrow Fund, use that emotional response and encourage the rage into a mob mentality in order to raise funds. Thompson and Green recognize this problem and it is fully acknowledged. “You have to fight agains losing yourself,” Green notes.
Beginning in 2010, Thompson joins a Facebook group seeking the identity of the perpetrator. These groups are quite common and can even form factions. Through the anger and hysteria, Thompson finds a rational voice, John Green. Green is based in Los Angeles and noticed that the poster of the video seemed to be daring the online community to find him, using a scene from the Leonardo DiCaprio film, “Catch Me If You Can.” Green sets out the schematics of the torture chamber, an ordinary room, but with clues that place it in North America.
Between the talking heads of Thompson and Green, the director intersperses reenactments of logging on to the Internet, clicking on to YouTube and searching–all things we’ve done and do and are scenes of ordinary life for us now.
When a group, Rescue Ink, gets involved and offers a reward and things become complicated. Joe Panz describes Rescue Ink and their in-your-face style manner adds color and chaos to the proceedings.
Despite all the clues that point to North America, someone points to a person in Africa. This person, under a pseudonym posts a video clip of a cat being set on fire. The hunt is on and it ends with the death of Edward Louis Jordan by suicide. He was a pretender, a copy cat, if you will. He was NOT however, the person who posted the 1 boy 2 kittens video.
From London comes two more videos: A cat is drowned. A kitten is fed to a python. This person wants bad attention and he’s getting it. Lewis doesn’t show us what people saw, but gives us reactions.
By “Killing for Clicks,” you get to know Luka Magnotta archival through archival material and people outside of the Facebook group are on his trail, including journalist Joe Warmington of the Toronto Sun. More importantly, the police ask to join the FB group.
By the last episode, “Closing the Net,” the killer’s identity is revealed, but there are more clues and the Internet sleuths become involved in a global search for a person who has now murdered a man, Jun Lin.
What I like about writer/director Mark Lewis’ documentary is that it shows us how every one can help stop crime, but that not everyone is reasonable enough and there are red herrings, like pretenders who for some perverse reason want attention (e.g. Jordan). While is it sad that Jordan committed suicide, he also basically waved a red flag in front of an already angry bull of Internet animal lovers. Here you can see the good and bad possibilities of social media and that’s worth reflecting on. Posses and mobs aren’t a thing of the past and whether or not justice is served depends upon whether one allows the monster of outrage to take control.