“I’m John McAfee,” says John McAfee frequently. He says it to shop staff whilst buying a wig to disguise his identity. He says it to the apparently random people he hires to be his security whilst running as a fugitive. He says it whilst waving around the large number of guns he feels he needs to be safe.
The creator of McAfee anti-virus software may have had a vast array of issues, but self assurance was never one.
Running With The Devil: The Wild World of John McAfee is a documentary edited together using predominately footage shot by VICE journalist Rocco Castoro and photographer Robert King.
The eccentric McAfee had emigrated from the US to live in Belize, Central America, until in 2012 he was named a person of interest in the murder of his US native neighbour, Gregory Faull.
Claiming a conspiracy against him, McAfee fled the country but invited Castoro and King to document his journey, seemingly as a shield to prevent arrest or assassination.
The proposed VICE documentary was never released nor completed due to what can only be glibly referred to as a bizarre sequence of events.
As this new Netflix release shows, along with the VICE journalists and Samantha Herrera (a Belizean girlfriend 40 years his junior), McAfee illegally entered Guatemala before his eventual arrest due to the publication of a photo which contained geolocation metadata.
To go over what happens next would be to give it away, but this is only the first half of the documentary.
Running With The Devil Official Trailer
Running With The Devil was cobbled together using the unused VICE footage and additional material shot 5 years later by King whilst McAfee was again on the run for alleged tax evasion.
The gaps are filled in with obligatory archive footage and context plus interviews with Castoro, King, and the occasional other (such as the experiences of his ghostwriter, Alex Cody Foster). This makes for as chaotic a release as the man’s life with little cohesive throughline.
The flavour of John McAfee is of a highly paranoid man whose elaborate explanations are difficult to believe. His claims that he could hack anyone in the world – and owned vast arrays of blackmail material – is trotted out in order to justify his belief of personal persecution.
There is a clear pattern of choosing young, naïve, or vulnerable women. “He has a short temper,” says Samantha, before telling a story about how she pointed a gun at him to refuse his sexual advances and then laughing to herself lightly about it.
The latter half of the film features Janice Dyson. Janice, McAfee’s third wife and former sex worker 30 years his junior whom he solicited in Miami, fled with him during his tax evasion flight. She casually mentions the children left behind that she doesn’t know when she’ll see next: another sacrifice to McAfee’s all-consuming self-importance.
McAfee: a man drenched in guns and money and drugs. Rocco Castoro appears a man out of his depth at the dawning realisation he is aiding and abetting a wanted murderer flee justice; his frazzled nature exacerbated by VICE refusing to run the story.
King, on the other hand, appears to revel in the insane ride. He gleefully rocks around with McAfee and recounts the stories with a twinkle in his eye. It was all fun and games to him up until the point that paranoid McAfee, high on bath salts and searching his yacht for perceived spies, draws a gun on him.
Is Running With The Devil Worth Watching?
In terms of sheer car crash entertainment (think Tiger King), Running With The Devil is full of astonishing moments of a man who both wants to be documented and yet refuses to unequivocally state his innocence.
“Isn’t this a good story I’ve created for you?” he blathers, seeming to imply that he has made chunks of it up. Yet from a narrative point, such as is possible, the movie struggles to maintain interest in the last 30 minutes or so.
McAfee’s lunacy is presented with little examination or challenge. He evades Castoro’s attempts to question him, frequently deciding that everyone has to pack up and leave right now.
As the King footage descends into gun and drugs mania Running With The Devil has little to say except ‘watch this, it’s messed up’.
If you tune in for an evening’s viewing, then be prepared to stand on the side as a rich man forces himself deep into a rabbit hole of his own making, scorching the earth around him as he does so.
Words by Mike Record