Cat and Mouse
Killing for Clicks
Closing the Net
Social media is both a blessing and a curse. At its worst, toxic comments and death threats contribute toward some pretty horrific content being shared around. By comparison, positive hashtag trends and activist movements can genuinely bring communities together and create a powerful symbol or image to get behind and push meaningful change. What happens then when both these worlds collide together? Step forward Netflix Documentary Series, Don’t F**k With Cats.
On the surface, this documentary series feels like a quirky, almost parodical spin on the effects of social media but given I went into this one with no knowledge of the case or what this was about (I don’t watch trailers or read the synopsis until after I’ve finished watching the content), Don’t F**k With Cats very quickly descends into a nightmarish tale involving a horrific video of cat abuse shared online. I love cats and having grown up most of my life with them as household companions, this documentary series sparked a pang of disgust and horror in me as the tale unraveled.
The first episode sets the scene, with John Green and Deanna Thompson narrating their experiences with setting up an online Facebook Group to try and track down the identity of the man responsible for creating the cat video. As the series progresses however, this dark and sinister tale twists, and twists again as this copycat homage to Catch Me If You Can sets off on a globe-hopping cat and mouse game with the authorities. To give much more away would be a disservice to the story but suffice to say the entire thing plays out like something from a slasher/thriller film, ending with a thought provoking and inner-reflective message about humanity’s morbid curiosity toward cases like this.
Stylistically, the entire documentary combines talking heads and the usual array of archival footage with a unique visual format akin to 2018’s feature film Searching. From inputting usernames on a Facebook login to signify another character talking about the case, through to the various likes, notifications, shares and emoticon reactions to posts, Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer does a wonderful job visualizing the digital world and bringing this tale to life. You really feel like you’re part of the investigation too and John Green in particular has a real novel way of approaching his narration, with perfect pauses and anecdotal references to his notes.
Coupled with the visuals is the music which certainly deserves some credit here. Haunting, pulsating and oftentimes disturbing, the orchestral chimes accompanying the visuals really feel like something out of a thriller film and feed into the overall unnerving feel the documentary gives off. It’s very easy to become engrossed in this series and the music helps you ride that wave right the way through to the shocking ending.
Ironically as I finish writing this review, I’ll undoubtedly do my usual social media run and share this across the site, facebook, twitter and Reddit. Given the attention craved by our killer however, is this exactly what they want? It’s a pretty unique situation to be in and something the final few minutes of the third episode echoes too. Despite all that, this is must-watch TV and given I only intended to watch one episode tonight, I blasted through all three back to back without blinking an eye. Extraordinary, shocking and visually unique, Don’t F**k With Cats may not be the best documentary of the year, but it is one of the more unique and unusual cases, and inevitably a series that will take the true-crime series world by storm.