I’m a sucker for documentaries. Such a sucker, in fact, that I end up watching a lot of garbage docs in search of that next gem.
But wading through all of the over-produced, self-aggrandizing, self-important schlock seems to all be worth it when you stumble across a piece like The Fear of 13.
After 23 years on death row, convicted murderer Nick Yarris made a surprising request of the Pennsylvania Courts. He petitioned that all appeals cease and his sentence of death be carried out. He agreed to let documentarian David Singleton interview him about his decision.
But what Singleton got was so much more than what you might expect: the exasperation of a man tired of proclaiming his innocence and fighting uphill against the system. He got the poignant & captivating life story told by a mesmerizing and well-spoken Yarris. A tale of his descent from teenage car thief and drug addict to an incident with a highway patrolman — an incident which, in an ill-advised attempt to make himself seen important and get his charges reduced, he ended up making himself the prime suspect in the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a woman he’d never met.
We never hear the interviewer’s voice, but instead Yarris narrates his way through the twists & turns of how his juvenile delinquency and poor decisions ultimately landed him on death row. The story is captivating and raw, with tiny snippets of re-enactment and audio cues to punctuate his story.
And whether you ultimately believe Yarris’s story or not, if you enjoy a good documentary or crime story (or both), The Fear of 13 will not disappoint. It’s at the same time raw and well-constructed with just the right amount of production to enhance but not distract from the story.