Content Warning: This review contains description of murder and animal violence. Not recommended for younger readers.
2010. A video appears on Youtube titled “1 boy 2 kittens.” In the video, a man in a blue jacket, the hood obscuring his face, places two kittens on the ugliest wolf blanket you ever did see. He pets them briefly, before placing them in a vacuum bag. He attaches the vacuum to the bag. He turns the vacuum on. The internet loses its mind. After all, as internet sleuth Baudi Moovan said herself, “There’s one unwritten rule on the internet. Don’t f**k with cats.” The Netflix documentary, aptly named Don’t F**k With Cats, covers the story of the kitten killer and the scramble to catch him before he makes the leap from killing cats to killing humans.
So what happens when you do f**k with cats? All hell breaks loose. Soon after the cat killing video is posted, a Facebook group pops up: “Find the Kitten Vacuumer for Great Justice.” In a frenzy to find the cat killer, people point fingers and follow every lead that pops up and send death threats to every possible suspect. Amidst the chaos, there are two people who manage to remain calm: a Las Vegas casino worker who uses the online alias “Baudi Moovan,” and a Los Angeles resident with an interest in sleuthing who goes by “John Green.”
Moovan and Green are interviewed in the documentary, and their narration is used over both real and recreated internet footage across three, roughly 45-minute episodes. Fast cuts and the occasional, suspenseful piece of music keep the pacing engaging as Moovan and Green tell their own story of the events: a story that includes how they took the video apart frame by frame, analyzed everything down to the light switches and vacuum cleaner, sourced the internet for suspects, and eventually, after being tipped off by an anonymous source that the killer was one Luka Magnotta, tracked him down in Canada.
After three more cat killing videos, taunting messages from Magnotta, and a threat to kill a person, Moovan and Green reached out to the Canadian police. No response. Sure enough, a new video appears. “1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick.” In it, Magnotta films himself in his Montreal apartment, stabbing exchange student Jun Lin (who he met on a dating website) with a screwdriver painted to look like an icepick and dismembering him. After an international manhunt, the police track Magnotta down in Germany, where he confesses to everything and claims that a mystery man named “Manny” forced him to do it. However, there’s no evidence that “Manny” even exists.
Magnotta’s story bears a striking resemblance to the plot of Basic Instinct, a 1992 film that Magnotta’s mother notes he was particularly obsessed with, in which a woman murders her boyfriend with an icepick under the instruction of a man named Manny. After analyzing “1 Lunatic 1 Icepick,” police realize that it’s shot almost identical to the ice pick murder scene from Basic Instinct. The documentary cuts in between shots of Magnotta and shots from the movie, where he mirrors the main character’s movements and mannerisms almost exactly.
The ending is brilliant. The entire documentary is brilliant. The way it’s shot, the music, the pacing—it’s all perfect. It’s just fast enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, but slow enough that it isn’t confusing. The documentary is a masterpiece, but also a mistake.
Magnotta craved fame. He lusted after attention and notoriety to the point that at one time he made up a false rumor that he was dating Canadian serial killer Karla Homolka just so people would hate him for it. At the end of the documentary, Moovan wonders if the scramble to find the kitten killer only fueled Magnotta’s ego, and if the euphoria of being in the spotlight for once was what pushed him to kill Jun Lin. Magnotta wanted to be a movie star. It’s slowly revealed throughout the documentary that Magnotta had been leaving clues all along. He sent a blurred out photo of his face, he sent them emails, and it’s revealed that he was the one who dropped his name in the first place. Magnotta wanted to get caught. He wanted the infamy. And he got it. By making him the subject of his own documentary, his dream of being a movie star was fulfilled. Though he might be in prison, he still won. And even by writing this article, I’m letting him.