If, like me, you survived lockdown with murder-mystery and true-crime documentaries such as American Murder: The Family Next Door, Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez and Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer, then Devilsdorp from Showmax might just be the kind of backyard-crime docuseries you need.
Until the Samurai Sword Killer, Appointment Murders, the Satanic Murders, most of us thought of Krugersdorp as that seedy place past Westgate.
In a series of murders and a trial that captured the South African public, the “Krugersdorp Killings” – as they came to be known between 2012 and 2016 – were all traced back to Cecilia Steyn and the Electus per Deus (Chosen by God) cult and it is this, unfortunately, that the dorpie has become synonymous with.
Directed by David Enright and produced by IdeaCandy, Devilsdorp is the result of an 18-month research process and it shows in the final product.
Setting the scene for each murder, and then slowly weaving it all together as part of a bigger syndicate, makes it riveting TV. The madness unfolds from what seems like a sleepy little town into a full-on serial killer murder mystery, to the final revelation of a satanic cult in four episodes.
What is also fascinating about the series is that the suspects, friends, family members and investigating officers – who are pivotal to the investigation – are really well characterised and instead of being just everyday folk from Krugersdorp, they become the champions of good versus evil.
This can be seen in how investigating officer Captain Ben Booysen is likened to Chuck Norris’s character “Walker Texas Ranger”, in the show of the same name, for example. The series also gets major points for focusing on the victims and not solely on the perpetrators, which we have seen in other docuseries such as the Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.
More so, call it luck or divine intervention, there is a lot of footage of exorcisms and church meetings, which the producers have managed to get their hands, and it really authenticates what the interviewees describe in the series and places you firmly in the centre of the dark madness.
Why will Devilsdorp captivate South African audiences?
South Africans, by nature, are a conservative people so when satanic rituals take place in Los Angeles at the Cecil Hotel or when serial killer Richard Ramirez shouts “hail Satan” at his trial- it’s fine because its happening “over there”. When exorcisms and other occult rituals happen in dorpies in our backyards, it feels a lot more twisted and way too close to home.
Will it keep you up at night? No – because the trial concluded in 2019 and we know a lot about how things ended but I won’t spoil it for those who are new to this. With this said, it may lose you a little, especially if you followed it in the media.
But does it set a proverbial blueprint for more local whodunits on Showmax or any other streaming platform for that matter? Yes.
If not in the works already, it’s about time we get into the minds of Moses Sithole, Jack Mogale, Henri van Breda or Thozamile Taki, some of South Africa’s most notorious killers whose names we remember, but often their victims have been forgotten.
The docuseries also looks at the post-apartheid rise of the occult in South Africa, as well as how socio-economic factors play a role in the psyche of people. However, that element could have been explored a lot more.
In conclusion, Devilsdorp gets a well deserved three out of five for good story telling and great research, but simply because the story has been hashed out in the public space, it is easy to lose interest in certain moments.
Binge all four episodes of Devilsdorp, which is rated 16VL, on Showmax