Oliver Cooper pulls off Son of Sam serial killer with exceptional performance

Oliver Cooper as David Berkowitz aka Son of Sam in Netflix's Mindhunter series.
Oliver Cooper depicted David Berkowitz, the serial killer known as Son of Sam, in the Netflix series ‘Mindhunter’.

I’m famous in personal circles for rarely watching TV, but the Netflix series Mindhunter managed to capture my attention. Maybe it was because I was a young adult when horrendous crimes like those of Charles Manson’s ‘family’ occurred. Other reasons include some fine performances by the actors, and I have to say Oliver Cooper, who played the role of David Berkowitz known as ‘Son of Sam’, gave an exceptional performance. Berkowitz was the guy I found creepiest of all during the time he was at large, grabbing headlines on a daily basis.

Cooper even managed to look like Berkowitz. If you compare the photos of the real Berkowitz with a photo of Cooper playing the character of Berkowitz, you’ll see what I mean.

In the Netflix series, the FBI for research purposes interviews various serial killers like Berkowitz, and those scenes occur amid a backdrop of personal stories among the FBI staffers who do the interviews. The narrative also depicts the development of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit and the practice of profiling. The series is based on the book Mindhunter by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker published in 1995. Douglas is pretty much known as the guru of profiling.

The 1960s and 1970s were a riveting time when it came to serial killers. Besides Berkowitz, the Manson-directed murders, Richard Speck, Ted Bundy, and Dean Corll murdered innocents and made the news. The US public was pretty much collectively horrified, because we hadn’t yet become desensitized to blood and gore as depicted on screens today.

Of all the killers, I think Berkowitz was the most terrifying because he caught victims unaware, simply walking up to them and attacking. There was no engagement as there was with Bundy or those who aided Corll in his murders.

Does it do any good to study serial killers? That’s a debatable issue, but some ‘serial killer whisperers’ have criticized the depiction of the practice as shown on the Netflix series.

The more you learn about serial killers, the more you realize they’re a diverse community, with different sexual orientations, complexions, and backgrounds, far more different than contemporary media admit.

The Netflix series Mindhunter is fictionalized, although the characters of the serial killers are based on real life murderers.

The most unusual thing about Mindhunter, for me personally, is that it can hold my attention. Few programs or films can do that. I prefer books, in part because I read fast and don’t have to wait for episodes to unfold.

My husband is just glad we’ve found something I can sit through. Once college football starts up, there’ll be a lot more for me to view on TV.

(Kay B. Day/Aug. 20, 2019)

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