Hulu’s latest true crime documentary titled Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story is one of the most interesting and shocking docu-series released in 2021. The series is directed by Jessica Dimmock that tells the story of the Stayners in three parts/chapters. With real-life footage featuring Stayners’ household members, TV reporters, actors from I Know My First Name Is Steven and more. The runtime for each episode is 40-50 minutes.
– Hulu’s Captive Audience Review Does Not Contain Spoilers –
Captive Audience: Horror & Heroism
Two of the world’s most high profile cases are brought to life by Jessica Dimmock through this three-part docu-series. The show covers the events that happened to the Stayner family’s two members that made headlines and, shocked the world with the terrifying nature of paedophilia, abduction, jealousy, murder and more. The first two episodes of the series are dedicated to Steven Stayner, who was kidnapped at the age of seven and, escaped from the clutches of his capturer at the age of fourteen to return home. The episodes also cover the sensationalism of this California kidnapping and, how Steven even saved a fellow victim who was kept with him by their kidnapper during the escape.
The episodes focus on Steven’s case gaining prominence. So much so that it was turned into an Emmy-nominated two-part television series titled I Know My First Name Is Steven that only hyped the importance and relevance of the case. With this lens, the story shifts to Steven’s brother- Cary, who turns out raped and murdered four women and faced conviction. The documentary centres around Steven’s suffering and the frantic media attention that made him a hot topic and thereafter, how it affected the family, with ultimately Cary turning into a murderer out of jealousy towards his brother to do something bigger.
Captive Audience really captures its tagline of being a real American horror story when it comes to Steven’s case of being kidnapped by a paedophile, being abused and tortured, showing us the severity of abduction and its effects. It also stands true in the representation of how the media, all these years later also, cannot let go of this one California case along with the rape-homicide cases of women.
However, the series is a documentary and yet, sometimes it feels less factual, accurate and, more based on the TV show that was made of Steven and recollection of Steven’s children, who never really knew their father as he died when the children were really young, and, the actors from the TV show. The one helpful person might just be Steven and Cary’s mother in this series of interviews that we see but, of course, being somebody who has been put at the forefront so often, it is only normal for her to sound disgruntled during the interview.
Another drawback of the series is how much dependent it is on the TV movie from 1989 to vouch for so many segments. The style really feels offbeat and, less documentary-like. Yet the story is so compelling that you would want to sit through the three episodes and, know what happens at the end of it all.
Final Verdict on Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story
Overall, Captive Audience is not a ‘well-made’ documentary, but it definitely has a story at its core that people would want to know about time and again, much like the story of Ted Bundy, Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson and, the likes. It is horrifying as you are confronted with real and torturous incidents in the show and, it is one of those documentaries that one must watch, at least to know about these two high profile cases.
You can stream all three episodes of Captive Audience now on Hulu.Instagram & Facebook to keep yourself updated with the latest news and reviews.