First Cut – My Dad the Serial Killer Review
First Cut – My Dad the Serial Killer, Channel 4, Friday 30th Jan, 7:35pm Alert Me
Documentaries tend to live or die on their subjects. You can have three whole hours dedicated to Killer Guatemalan Ferret Hunters, but if they have the personality of a Hobnob, it’s just not likely to make good television.
And this is, bizarrely, where My Dad the Serial Killer both falls down and partially wins you over.
Matt Rudge’s documentary examines the deeply personal fallout from the Levi Bellfield ‘hammer’ murders that rocked London during 2005. By focusing on his unsuspecting family, Rudge is able to explore the after-effects of a lesser-heard victim in these terrible tragedies.
The documentary follows Bellfield’s eldest daughter Bobbi-Louise as she approaches her 18th birthday and begins to peek into the prejudice and social exile that comes hand in hand with a father who has been sentenced to three consecutive life sentences.
Except, the thing is, there’s not really that many noticeably traumatic, long-lasting downsides. I’m not saying it’s an experience everyone should give a whirl, but Bobbi-Louise is an exceptionally grounded, well adjusted and sensible girl who seems to have taken the whole thing as well as anyone could ever be expected to. Her interactions with friends and family are warm, unguarded and generally reflect the life of any other fatherless young woman.
There are tales of how her siblings have been bullied at school, but there is no direct interaction with them about the case and furthermore, no burdensome monologues about how shockingly Bobbi-Louise’s life has changed since the incidents.
It’s when the focus shifts onto Bellfield’s ex-wife that viewers start to gain a mild introspective into what life was like living with an increasingly aggressive-passive psychotic. Hearing her talk about her experiences is undeniably shocking, but once again, you get a sense that this is an incredibly self-aware woman who was sensible enough to get out when things turned truly nasty and whose largest current problem is suffering the occasional slings and arrows of Bellfield’s stubbornly resilient family.
This isn’t to belittle the trauma and pain that all included must have experienced, it’s just not captivating enough content to really drag you in.
When the most unsettling thing in a show about a Serial Killer is the karaoke singing at the end, its clear things may have veered slightly off course. But when the final destination is just as entertaining, maybe that’s a good thing.
By Matt Risley