The internet is an enshrinement to the human condition. Every aspect of our psyche is reflected in all its best, and worst, qualities. Internet sub-culture has named a variety of these recurring traits, one of the most well-known being ‘Rule 34’: if it exists, there will be porn of it. No exceptions.
Another, apparently unspoken, rule is that the internet will let slide the majority of troll-like or contemptuous things you say or do. But, whatever you say or do, don’t ever, ever, f**k with cats. Because the internet loves cats so unquestionably that there will be consequences.
The Don't F**k With Cats – Hunting An Internet Killer documentary follows what starts as a piece of amateur revenge investigation. In 2010 a video called 1 Boy 2 Kittens surfaces online. The video shows a young man placing kittens inside a vacuum seal bag and then sucking out the air, killing them. Online outrage ensues and a Facebook group is established with the sole purpose of trying to track down the male by deducing what clues they can from the video. What country uses that kind of power outlet? Where are those kinds of vacuum cleaners sold? What is the significance of the background music? The hunt is on.
This documentary-style is very much ingrained in the online world. Investigations involve Google Earth, uncovering ‘sock puppet’ accounts (fake social media profiles designed to spread out a co-ordinated message), and photo image metadata. The extent to which the Facebook sleuths (of which ‘John Green’ and Deanna Thompson aka ‘Baudi Moovan’ are the predominant interviewees) manage to narrow down global possibilities to one specific street is astounding. That the show inadvertently highlights how easy it would be for someone with malicious intent to use the same techniques is something perhaps best not dwelled upon. Indeed, a video uploaded simply showing one group member’s place of work (as an intimidation tactic) is almost as terrifying as the crimes documented.
Once the potential feline felon is identified the self-proclaimed nerds hit a brick wall in trying to get the authorities involved but, as they state, it is a well-known element of serial killer profiling that many start with abusing animals. Chillingly, the perpetrator uploads more videos, infiltrates the Facebook group to taunt his trackers and escalates his behaviour up to the point where a video of an actual murder is uploaded and body parts were mailed to the offices of Canadian political parties.
Considering the killer’s crimes are posted to the internet and it is internet researchers that try to track him down it is unsurprising that the producers opt for a very ‘live-action typing’ presentation style. Facebook posts are typed in, notification bells ding, comments are zoomed in on, and maps scrolled over. The over-reliance on this can grate at times. Do we really need to see a series of banal social media comments in order to tell this story? Also, there is, at first, a limited amount of contributors so whether or not you find Baudi Moovan and John Green engaging will determine your enjoyment here. Thankfully, further entries come from police officers, family members, and psychologists, etc… as the hunt, and crimes, become more widespread.
That irritant (or not) aside, Don't F**k With Cats is a fascinating exploration of both how home detective work in this online age is an effective (if disrespected) tool, and also how modern technology amplifies the darker excesses of a mentally ill narcissistic mind. It’s clear that the sadist uploading tortuous footage is seeking attention and that efforts to track him down only feed into it. When Baudi turns to the camera and directly addresses us, the viewer, to ponder where vicarious responsibility lies, the point is as pertinent as it is depressingly fatalistic.
Words by Michael Record