Wow. So, have you had a chance to watch the new Netflix original series THE KEEPERS?
If you’re a fan of true crime podcasts like SERIAL, or were addicted to Netflix’s other surprise sleeper hit MAKING A MURDERER, this will be something that you will find simultaneously captivating, infuriating and just downright great documentary storytelling. And unlike those other examples I just gave, it doesn’t turn its primary suspects into the story’s protagonist. Filmmaker Ryan White, who also produced the HBO movie THE CASE AGAINST 8, instead approaches it from the (multiple) victim’s points of view, as the investigation of Sister Cathy’s murder actually uncovers far worse evils just under the surface. It’s specifically the events surrounding these two unsolved murders that make the 7-episode arc both an emotional, and at times very difficult, watch.
THE KEEPERS revolves around the kidnapping and later unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik in late 1969. Her body was found a few weeks later in January of 1970, where nearby, a local girl named Joyce Malecki was also kidnapped and murdered in similar circumstances. Could the two crimes be linked? Were they potentially perpetrated by the same assailant? Gemme Hoskins and Abbie Schaub were seniors at the all-girls Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore, Maryland back in 1969 when Sister Cathy was murdered. And because of the great affinity, love and respect that all the students had for Sister Catchy, this unsolved case has always haunted them. Hence, the now retired grandmothers Hoskins and Schaub devote their spare time to discussing the case openly on a forum created on a Facebook group seeking justice for Sister Cathy.
It isn’t until the second episode where the true horror begins.
Outside of the murders, in the 90’s, some shocking allegations surfaced about two of the priests that were in charge of Keough High School at the time. One of them, Father Joseph Maskell, could very well be one of the most evil monsters ever depicted in any series I’ve ever seen, whether it be a fictional narrative or based in truth. While, of course, allegations are often only that without concrete evidence, it’s very difficult not to take into consideration the alarming number of abuse victims that come forward regarding Maskell’s incomprehensible behavior in the late 60’s and going well beyond Sister Cathy’s murder. The theory is that because of her close relationship with the students, Cathy was well aware of the abuse Maskell and the other priests were responsible for, and was preparing to take action, which most likely led to her untimely death.
Just how severe were the actions of Father Maskell to dozens of 14 year old students? It was literally so horrific hearing the various things he forced these students to do that I had to take a break after watching episode 2, and spread out the remaining 5 episodes. It gets that dark. And even worse, the more details that get revealed, the more a cover up becomes apparent as other priests at the school, and even local police participated in the humiliating, terrible things that were done to these girls.
The lengths to which the Church went to to cover up these allegation in the 90’s is well documented here, and unbelievably dismissed, but it’s hard to refute the testimony of several victims, all who never knew each other prior, but found each other through the existence of the Facebook group. The series looks at all the facts, talks to all the key players, and tries to build a narrative with several potential suspects.
Where it goes from there, I don’t want to spoil for you. But to me, this is true, real life horror. Having people in positions of power that society trusts: teachers, priests, law enforcement, lawyers – and having them discredit or deny these atrocities was much harder for me to watch than any 80’s “slasher” killer or supernatural entity could ever be.
Some of the evils of man are far, far worse, and if anything comes from this series, I hope it’s shining the spotlight on what was done and holding those guilty parties responsible. Its riveting television and definitely something for you to queue up, although I don’t recommend marathoning it. It’s a bit much, even for the most seasoned of “true crime” buffs.
All 7 episodes are now streaming on Netflix Instant. The trailer is below, but I sincerely recommend avoiding it and just watching.
*All images: Netflix