’Monsters Inside; The 24 Faces Of Billy Milligan’ is a horror game that has players trying to solve the mystery of what happened to their missing friend. It has an interesting premise, but it is not executed well enough to keep your interest for long.
“Monsters Inside; The 24 Faces of Billy Milligan,” a new Netflix four-part docu-series, examines Billy Milligan, the psychopath with 24 personalities, capitalizing on the serial criminal content craze that has swept the streaming business.
They spend four episodes examining the difficult life of rapist and probable murderer Billy Milligan, directed by Olivier Magaton and written by Megaton and Brice Lambert (when two would have sufficed).
Milligan grew up in a tumultuous home, where his stepfather abused him emotionally, physically, and sexually while his mother stood by, herself a victim of domestic violence. She had four marriages, one of them was a serial abuser, and was notorious for picking bad guardians for herself and her children. It’s believed that extreme childhood trauma may lead to psychosis in certain individuals. Billy, it turns out, was just such a guy.
Billy’s criminal tendencies were obvious from the start, and he had already spent time in prison before becoming famous/infamous as the Ohio State (as in University of Columbus) rapist in 1977. In a couple of weeks, he robbed and raped three coeds. After fingerprints were found at one or more of the sites, he was soon arrested.
His astute and sympathetic public defenders immediately saw that something was “wrong” with their client and requested a psychiatric examination. As a result, the circus ensues as he is quickly diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. Cornelia Wilber, a psychiatrist who treated “Sybil,” a patient with dissociative identity disorder, and co-wrote the same name book with Billy, was called to testify. Wilber found twenty-four personas in Billy, while Sybil had sixteen.
Megaton uses the archival footage of the trial to analyze the evidence of the interested parties in order to build a comprehensive picture of a complicated character. He also considers previous interviews with family members, prosecutors, defense lawyers, psychologists, and police officers, as well as real-time explanations from those same people. Many of the old and new interviews are interesting, but the interpretations provided (in French) by French psychiatrists and philosophers (yes, you read that right) are a total puzzle. I’m not clear why the director saw the need to cram extraneous comments from experts with no interest in the result into an already bloated video.
He and two of his executive producers are French, which is the only conceivable explanation. Isn’t it, however, inadequate justification? We might have used less remarks from his former elementary school friends (e.g., “he was such a lovely kid,” “he came from a difficult family”) and more information on his life after he was officially released from the mental institution in 1988. He lived in California for almost 20 years, until he died of cancer, and he did it without the scrutiny of the documentarians. What was he up to, anyway? What did he do for a living? Were there any other ominous crimes committed around him?
Billy Milligan is a one-of-a-kind figure. Dissociative identity disorder may or may not have been present in a sociopath who excelled at manipulation. He had a knack for grabbing and holding people’s attention. He even co-wrote The Minds of Billy Milligan with Daniel Keyes, an autobiography. It was noted as an intriguing side point that Keyes was chosen since he authored Flowers for Algernon. Keyes was a writer whose only significant work, the aforementioned Flowers for Algernon, was science fiction. Unlike Wilbur, who was a psychiatrist who knew the disease she was researching, Keyes was a novelist whose only notable work, the aforementioned Flowers for Algernon, was science fiction. The book Minds by Billy Milligan has been characterized as a “non-fiction book.” So, what does it imply?
The issue, which was significant, was the continuous repetition of interviews that had already proved their point, whatever that argument was. The initial effect of Billy Milligan’s unraveling is muddied and the consequences of his unraveling are minimized as one feels as if one is on an endless loop of the same stuff by the same people.
It would have sufficed with only two episodes. You’ll have a hard time paying attention throughout the first two episodes. A more in-depth examination of the schisms in diagnosis, the ethical failings of psychiatrists who revel in the celebrity of their clients’ situations, the desire to punish rather than “cure,” and the diagnostician’s role when faced with manipulation would have been more fascinating than Billy himself. All are mentioned, but none are investigated.
On September 22nd, Netflix will begin streaming the documentary.