Brace yourselves for David Fincher’s latest foray into serial murder — the trailer for Mindhunter, the director’s new ’70s crime drama about a pair of FBI agents who devote themselves to decoding the mentality of psychopathic murderers, is out Tuesday. The show, which will stream on Netflix starting October 13, is based on the eponymous 1996 book by Mark Olshaker and John Douglas. Olshaker and Douglas’s book traced FBI agents’ attempts to study and understand psychopaths and serial killers back when even the phrase "serial killer" was an innovation. Douglas, who also writes for the show alongside Joe Penhall, is the model for Mindhunter’s Holden Ford, played by Jonathan Groff, erstwhile Frozen voice actor and Glee star. Groff is joined by Holt McCallany, who plays FBI agent Bill Tench.
The newest trailer isn’t earth-shatteringly different from the teaser released in March, but it does expand a bit on the plot and characters, showing a lot more of the serial killers at the center of the series. The new trailer begins with an almost documentary tone: A man’s voice delivers the line, "It’s not easy butchering people. It’s hard work. Physically and mentally, I don’t think people realize you need to vent," in a disturbingly matter-of-fact tone. The speaker is a calm, plump man sitting across a table from Groff. As Groff looks at him with near disbelief, the man continues, "There’s a lot more like me." That’s the conceit: a world full of psychopaths whom no one has yet tried to understand. As Groff says, "You want truffles? You gotta get in the dirt with the pigs."
Mindhunter’s darkly realist look makes for a natural comparison to Fincher’s House of Cards. The show appears bleak both in aesthetic (lots of dull, fluorescent-lit jail cells) and content (lots of brutalized women). Still, I’m cautiously optimistic that the show is somewhat self-aware of its murder-porn potential; partway through the trailer, Ford comments nervously, "I can’t let these guys rub off on me… the way they view sex."
The trailer’s most disturbing — and intriguing — shots are the meetings between the serial killers and the agents. The FBI agents stay still, but the shackled killers move threateningly, circling like sharks. Eerie strings soundtrack scenes highlighting the ominous closeness of the men, who occupy one small cell with only a table between them. The encounters feel primed for explosion. None of this is exactly unexplored territory for Fincher; between Zodiac and Se7en, he’s done brutal-murders-as-cinematic-fodder before. And Mindhunter is coproduced by Charlize Theron, who’s dabbled in serial-killer drama with Monster. The two seem to make a promising pair for a series that asks not just who did it, but also why.