Faced with that, just hearing Gacy’s voice doesn’t really add much to an understanding of what motivated him or the hideous nature of his crimes, a task that falls to the usual suspects, including surviving police and prosecutors involved in breaking the case back in the 1970s. There are also interviews with relatives of those killed, and one survivor of Gacy’s attacks.
Their stories are horrific, recounting how the smell of decaying flesh ultimately gave Gacy away, ending a killing spree that included 33 victims, resulting in his conviction in 1980.
Because Gacy was active in his community and local politics, one of the lingering questions has always been, as the press notes phrase it, “How was a public figure like Gacy able to get away with murder for so long?”
Meticulously researched, “Conversations With a Killer” provides welcome context on that level, including homophobia that’s reflected in Gacy’s own discussions in which he explains his attraction to men as well as women.
As for why serial killers like Bundy and Gacy have exerted such a lasting hold on the public consciousness, that’s a sad fact of the true-crime genre that, at this stage, doesn’t require an explanation.
“Conversations With a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes” premieres April 20 on Netflix.