Memories of a Murderer: The Nilsen Tapes (2021)

memories of a murderer the nilsen tapes poster 2021 movie
6.5 Overall Score

Intense crimes

Generic and bland

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Memories of a Murderer:  The Nilsen Tapes

Studio:  Netflix Studios

Genre(s):  True Crime/Documentary

Release Date(s):  August 18, 2021

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

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Where the horror was uncovered…

A clogged sewer pipe leads to a horrific discovery…multiple body parts blocking the drain of an apartment home.  The home belongs to Dennis Nilsen, and Nilsen’s arrest leads to the discovery of a history of murder and death.  As Nilsen tells his side of the story, the real story plays out through an exploration of Nilsen’s crimes to the arrest that shocked London.

Directed by Michael Harte, Memories of a Murderer:  The Nilsen Tapes is a true crime documentary.  The movie looks the crimes of Dennis Nilsen (November 23, 1945-May 12, 2018), and the movie was released on Netflix.

Serial killer documentaries are so prevalent now.  They pop-up all the time on streaming services and that is because they are easy.  They tell a story about the worst of humanity and provide insight to the horror that warps a mind.  Dennis Nilsen was a monster, but the multiple true-crime series prove that he is just one of many.

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Tabloids love a scandal

Like Conversations with a Killer:  The Ted Bundy Tapes or Conversations with a Killer:  The John Wayne Gacy Tapes, Memories of a Murderer touts a killer telling his side of the story.  It is in his words and his telling of events.  Unlike the previous mentioned true-crime series, Dennis Nilsen doesn’t seem to be saying much.  His “confessions” aren’t very deep nor very prominent in the telling of the film.  I’d argue that being more about the victims’ stories and the true evidence of the crimes is a good thing, but it feels like the documentary is trying to capitalize on the sensationalism of hearing Nilsen speak…it just doesn’t provide much.

The interesting thing about the crimes is that some of the family members get justice for their family members who were just lumped in with Nilsen because of how he was portrayed in the press.  Nilsen’s victims are largely unidentified due to his disposal methods and the fact that they were people that were never seen as important enough to report…runaways and homeless people.  The fact that Nilsen was a homosexual in a time when homosexuality was criminalized led to all his victims being labeled as gay which wasn’t necessarily the case…some victims were crimes of opportunity.

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The search for victims

The documentary itself is rather basic.  You have the intermixing of Nilsen’s recording and the story of victims and those who investigated the crimes.  Many of these true crime documentaries are expanded to overly long lengths, but fortunately, Memories of a Murderer:  The Nilsen Tapes is relatively short…but it also in some ways feels just like an extended Dateline as a result.

Memories of a Murderer:  The Nilsen Tapes is one of Netflix weaker true-crime documentaries.  It has a salacious basis, but it is told in a very bland way.  I don’t know that every crime story should just be nightmarish and horrific because we are talking about real people, but I think that a better balance can be found instead of this entry…it is skippable.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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