Just so you understand the trauma of growing up in the early ’90s, almost 30 years later, the music from Unsolved Mysteries still gives me a panic attack. I can still remember watching that show with my father as a child, and then spending the next several nights awake, needing to pee, but being afraid to get off my bed because I was convinced the murderer depicted on that week’s episode was waiting outside my bedroom.
For those of you who are too young to remember (or your parents had the foresight to save you a lot of adult anxiety by banning Unsolved Mysteries in your home) the original show aired from 1987 – 2002. It told the stories of cold cases and paranormal activity through real interviews and reenactments. It was hosted by Robert Stack, a man whose face still lingers in my nightmares to this day. Stack died in 2002, but to be honest, I never bought it. If anyone could have faked their own death, it was Robert effing Stack. After hosting Unsolved Mysteries for a few decades, he had the knowledge to get away with really any crime, so it’s safe to assume he’s still alive somewhere, probably in France with that Count who murdered his whole family and buried them under the patio after going broke.
Anyway, when I saw that Netflix was featuring a reboot of the show, I was afraid to click on it. I just didn’t know if I had room in my adult life for something that freaked me out so much as a child. But like so many other children from the 90s, I sucked it up, embraced my fears, and took the plunge.
The format of the new show is a little different. There is no host; however near the end of the introduction, you can see the shadowy silhouette of Robert Stack. There are six episodes in the series, and each episode is just under one hour. In the original show, three or four cold cases would be presented, but with the new edition, each episode takes a more in depth look at one case.
The new show still has actors portraying the victims, perpetrators and witnesses, and let’s be real, it’s those little reenactments that make the show worth watching. There are also real interviews with witnesses and investigators.
But unlike a lot of true crime docuseries that are so popular right now, the new Unsolved Mysteries doesn’t ever solve the crime for you. Whoever threw that aspiring author from a hotel balcony, or dragged that poor hairdresser’s body into the bushes outside of a rural southern church, is still at large. So if you require a feeling of closure, this isn’t the show for you — but if you like the chilling feeling of wondering if the criminal is in line with you at the grocery store, cue it up.
I must say, however, the new format isn’t without its flaws. Yes, there are far more details on the case, more interviews, and you do leave each episode feeling like you gained a pretty full picture of the victim, their family, and their community. However, the pacing of the new show, at times, feels slow. The fourth episode in particular, where a vicious hate crime is investigated, has a pretty slow start. But rest assured, by the end of the episode, it’s difficult to not want to go to that small town in Kansas and bang on a few doors so you can help find the killer of poor Alonzo.
I know you’re sitting there, wondering which episode really hit home with the author of this article. Well … since you asked, it was episode three, appropriately titled “House of Terror.” Yes, I did a little foreshadowing above there by mentioning a Count who went broke and murdered his family. This whole episode is in French, and I will admit I’m not usually a fan of subtitles — but I couldn’t help but be completely engaged with this recounting. It is just bonkers, and horrible, and fascinating, and I hope they bring this father to justice, because what he did is flat out disturbing and wrong. By the end you cannot help but wonder how another human could do something so horrendous to their own family and get away with it.
On the whole, the new Unsolved Mysteries is a fresh take on an old favorite that will keep you engaged and terrified. And for those of you who survived the original, you will be happy to know that Netflix did include the “skip the intro” button, and it was much appreciated. For those of you who might want to relive your childhood by watching this with your children, be aware that there is some strong language, and, well … depictions of horrendous crimes. I’ll let you decide how to proceed. If you are looking for a good show to watch after the kids go to bed, though, I highly recommend this reboot.
But trust me, you will want to sleep with a light on.
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