‘Killer Sally’ Review: You Don’t Just Wake Up and Decide to Kill Your Husband

The bodybuilding world is truly one of those secret sections of the sports world. That world can be an example of discipline and hard work, but it can also be an example of abuse and excess. The bodybuilding world gave us Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it also gave us the case that the new Netflix docuseries, Killer Sally, is all about. The tale of a woman who had enough and decided to end it all by killing her abusive husband. It is truly a tale that serves as a warning call for every single person out there who can find themselves in a situation such as this.

Killer Sally is a documentary television series directed by Nanette Burstein and tells the story of Sally McNeil, a sergeant in the Marines’ forces, mother, wife, and bodybuilder. The series focuses on her life and the story of how she ended up killing her husband, Ray McNeil, who was also a bodybuilder. The series consists of only three episodes, but it breaks down the story in a very comprehensible and entertaining way. This story, of course, is a big tragedy, but seeing Sally herself tell her side of the story really makes the docuseries stand out.

Many other documentaries, especially those surrounding a true crime, don’t have the advantage of having the person who committed the murder alive, or willing to talk. However, this is not the case with Killer Sally. Here, Sally herself is ready to talk about almost everything concerning her case and how her life led her to that fateful moment. It is truly an entertaining tale, and director, Nanette Burstein, uses every single tool in her toolbox to come up with a flow chart of the events that can be easily followed and understood by the viewers at home.

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The series also has the advantage that most of the people involved in the case have recorded themselves considerably, and so, Burstein has enough footage at her disposal to come up with a composition that feels complete. You don’t only hear the characters talking about this and that; you can actually see them do that thing they are talking about. The quality of the footage is, of course, not the best ever, considering the time the footage was recorded, but it definitely makes the docuseries feel more grounded in reality.

The docuseries goes for the classic three-act structure, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It all feels very approachable in terms of storytelling, and as these real crime docuseries gain more and more popularity, Killer Sally is able to go a bit further than the majority. Yes, we know that people will watch it mostly to hear the morbid details surrounding Ray’s death. However, the docuseries takes its time to reveal the world of bodybuilding in all of its good and bad aspects, as well as telling the story of a survivor of abuse.

This last bit might be the most important element in Killer Sally. Sally tells her story firsthand, she doesn’t allow others to tell it for her, and that level of strength is truly inspiring. The fact that Sally admitted very clearly that she committed mistakes, that she isn’t perfect, and that she could have done better for herself and her kids, makes her a really approachable character. Many women and men too, will be able to identify with her situation. Sally really makes an impression in the docuseries, one of someone who just made bad decisions, but isn’t truly bad.

We are not talking about serial killers in this docuseries. We are talking about a person who tried to do the best in life, but who was dealt a bad hand, and she didn’t know how to turn it in her favor. As the docuseries progresses, we see more of every side of the story and also how, Sally was turned from a victim into a complete criminal, someone that needed to be punished. This is a behavior that is still sustained in our day. The right questions are never answered, we look at the now without studying the past, and because of it, we are doomed to repeat it, over and over again.

This is one point that Killer Sally tries to hammer into people’s heads. Yes, Sally did something wrong, but the reasons why were never taken into consideration. And if they did, then they were dismissed in a move that could only be called injustice. Not only for her but for her kids as well. Sally’s sons also tell their part of the story, and it is a truly sad one as well. The docuseries really linger on the point that some people don’t seem to catch a break from society, and when they explode, people pretend to be surprised.

Killer Sally is an excellent docuseries that should be watched because, while it goes deep into a case that happened over 25 years ago, it is still relevant in today’s society. That should tell you everything that you need to know. Sometimes, things just stay the same, and the worst thing is that the things that stay the same are often the worse things. Seeing Sally talk about her life and her crimes so openly is not something that happens in a lot of these docuseries, but just with that, Killer Sally stands out from the rest of the pack.

SCORE: 8/10

  • Nelson loves all things related to storytelling. He has spent most of his life studying narrative, applied across all mediums; film, TV, books, and video games. Mulholland Drive is his favorite film.