Mindhunter is the mesmerizing new show on Netflix where viewers find themselves unable to look away from Cameron Britton’s portrayal of real life serial killer Ed Kemper. The stunning thing about Kemper — both the real one and the character in Mindhunter — is the preternatural calm with which he openly describes his rage. Kemper creepily, stoically explains the slights that fueled his grievances — grievances he avenged by murder and sadistic torture. Kemper killed his mother (she was “matriarchal”), his grandparents, and a large number of young college women in Northern California earning tabloid nicknames like the “co-ed killer.” Movie buffs keep waiting for the Kemper character in Mindhunter to ask an imaginary Clarise if the lambs have stopped screaming.
FBI agent John Douglas “used psychological profiling to delve into the minds of the country’s most notorious serial killers and criminals” during his career, which is the basis of the Mindhunter show. Kemper was one of the sources of Douglas’s insights about the serial killer mind. (Mindhunter on Netflix is fictionalized — the agents have made-up names and the dialogue is not tethered to fact, but Kemper is a real life person.) Kemper was 6’9″ tall and heavy, and Britton’s 6’5″ frame — in addition to his precise diction and calm — is suggestive of the real Kemper. That real serial killer Kemper was born in Burbank, California and later moved with his alcoholic mother and sisters to Montana. After killing the family cats he was sent to live with his grandparents, whom he killed when he was 15. He was institutionalized and later let out to terrorize and murder co-eds. Kemper’s rage, according to his own testimony, came mainly from a deep hatred of his mother. Kemper is still alive in a California prison. Here’s a link to a chilling interview with Kemper. Another wicked 1991 interview is below: