• Category: 2017 TV Reviews
  • Written by Rick Ellis

Review: 'Evil Lives Here'

While they are a staple of cable television (including Investigation Discovery), I am not a huge fan of the "crime re-creation" genre of TV. Most times the resulting program is just a well-edited mish-mash of interviews & "new" footage that tells the story of the crime without giving the viewer any sort of emotional connection to the crime or its victims. In particular, the short interview snippets with friends & familiar are usually just long enough to impart the facts without providing any real sense of what the loss means to those closest to the victim.

One of the reasons I enjoyed "Evil Lives Here" during its first season is that it manages to get past the usual limitations of the genre to provide some emotional and often heart-wrenching stories of loss and betrayal. That's certainly the case on the season two premiere episode of the show, which focuses on the story of Paul Keller, a serial arsonist who was responsible for setting over a hundred fires in and around Everett, Washington in 1992-1993. For the first time in nearly 25 years, his parents spoke publicly about his life and how they came to the decision to turn him into police once they discovered his secret.

It's easy to second-guess some of the decisions made by parents George and Margaret, but their discussions about his life and early behavior are both chilling and heartbreaking. They recount his attempts to kill or injure his siblings and George in particular talks about his inability to comprehend the depth of his son's problems.

While the show does include the requisite re-enactments of the case, it's the interviews with the parents that really live an impact. Watching the elderly George sobbing uncontrollably about his son's crimes is nearly impossible to watch. These are some very raw, real interviews and it's an example of the emotions that are often less evident in less shows.

The story is a compelling one, enough to already have been covered in at least one other ID show, as well as in a made-for-Lifetime movie starring Neil Patrick Harris. But none of the other shows created as many memorable moments as these heartbreaking interviews.

Sure, people familiar with the case can quibble about a few of the details discussed in the episode, including the fact Paul was once fired from a booking job after his desk "mysteriously" caught on fire. But from what I can tell, this episode does a pretty solid job of accurately telling the cored facts of the case while allowing the parents a lot of time to share their memories of what it was like living with a loved one who turned out to be such a monster.

That personal insight about a case is the reason why season one of "Evil Lives Here" was so compelling and why it is one of the best shows on the network.