Netflix keeps pushing out great documentaries on a great diversity of topics. Of course, it is a fact that most of these documentaries deal with murder, extortion, and many more illicit things. Human beings have always liked to see suffering, and horror vicariously, from distance, and these documentaries allow the audience to do just that, especially when the audience knows that these events are real and not fictitious.
This is the reason Netflix keeps making these documentaries, and also the reason they keep improving on the formula with each new installment. The reenactments are better staged, the cinematography used in the interviews is top-notch, and even the music used throughout the whole affair feels series, climatic, and anxiety-inducing. Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies, and the Internet is just the latest installment in Netflix’s series of documentaries, and this time it touches on a subject that is very close to home.
The Internet has been the most important invention of the past decades. In some ways, the Internet has been a wonderful tool, that has allowed people from all over the world to make contact with each other. Exchange knowledge, feelings, and excitement, some people have even fallen in love through the internet and married in real life. The internet has allowed the creation of new inventions that have improved people’s lives considerably. As a tool that makes instant communication possible, it is one of the most powerful ever created.
However, this is something we all know. There is a dark side to the internet, as it is also a tool that can be used in very destructive ways, to ruin people’s lives completely. The anonymity that the internet provides, makes it easier for some of the most awful people out there to use it in ways that can only bring destruction and grief to people. Why some would do that? It is the same question made when someone would use a hammer to kill someone. They are both tools, and they can both build and destroy.
Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies and the Internet presents a number of extreme examples of how the internet can be used to do the worst thing imaginable. The series is just six episodes, but each one works as a sort of mini-documentary. Where the players involved in the case are presented, and then the episode begins to explain how the internet was used to commit such a crime. Seeing and hearing each of the cases becomes a very interesting affair, but also a scary one.
Especially, because in most cases, the only thing needed for something awful like that to happen is the bad intentions of a single individual and the will to do harm to others. The fact that every single member of the audience for this documentary can become the victim of one of these cases, makes this documentary one of the most terrifying in Netflix’s library of content.
The cases surrounding swatting and sex extortion are two of the most terrifying, and the documentary shows plenty of proof that there are some awful people out there willing to see other people suffer for their entertainment alone. But the documentary also makes a case for good being out there.
In a series of great interviews, the documentary presents a group of people involved in the cases, that also use the internet as a tool, but as a tool for good. For every awful thing being done out there, you can be that there is also someone trying to make them stop and help the people who are suffering. The interviews are done in the classic documentary style. There isn’t really anything new or groundbreaking being shown here, but if it works, why break it?
The pacing and direction of each individual episode are great, the information is delivered constantly, and there are very few dead spaces in the running time. This is the perfect formula to keep the audience engaged and to make them active watchers, as they are trying to build up the mystery as the episode provides them with clues. It is quite nice.
However, sometimes, the episodes can fall into the issue of being too shallow when it comes to the subject manner. It is often that the episode just focuses on a particular case but fails to explore the surrounding issues, which makes the show more like a series of anecdotes than actual investigative journalism. It doesn’t matter in the long run if you just want to be entertained. But if you are looking for something with a bit more depth, then just look somewhere else.
Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies and the Internet is another great but flawed documentary from Netflix. The formula still works, so we will see Netflix pushing out some more in the future. At some point, though, something will have to change and things will need to be a bit more experimental or have more depth if the genre doesn’t want to get stale.