Netflix’s documentary Lover, Stalker, Killer reflects the dangers of online dating and the fake personas individuals can hide behind a screen.
If you’ve ever been in the dating pool, chances are you have joined a dating app at some point during your lifetime and are familiar with the sign-up process. After creating an account, you’re presented with an array of questions about your dating preferences. You then swipe through various potential suitors, until you finally see three encouraging words: “It’s a match.” If you’re lucky, you build a connection with the person on the other side of the screen. This was the case for Dave Kroupa, who is the subject of Sam Hobkinson’s harrowing new Netflix documentary, Lover, Stalker, Killer. At the time, Dave thought he had found the woman of his dreams, though not even he could have predicted the sinister outcome that resulted in murder.
After separating from his long-term partner Amy, Dave moved near his ex to be closer to their kids. As he was new to town, he signed up for the popular dating app Plenty of Fish in 2012 in hopes of building a connection. That’s where he met Liz Golyar. She owned her own cleaning business, and the pair shared a love for sci-fi films and heavy metal music. Dave recalls their first date being a success. They were both lonely, enjoyed each other’s company, and started spending a lot of time together. However, Dave had always maintained that he wanted to keep things casual and was not looking for anything serious.
Around the same time, Dave met Cari Farver. She was a customer who came into his auto repair shop to get her car serviced, and Dave was immediately attracted to her. A couple of weeks later, Dave was shocked to stumble across Cari on Plenty of Fish. He reached out and arranged a date, though after inviting Cari back to his apartment, a strange incident occurred. Liz showed up out of the blue and asked Dave if she could fetch one of her belongings from his apartment. The two women Dave was dating saw each other but exchanged no words. Thereafter, Cari and Dave grew close and spent most nights together. After Dave left for work one morning, Cari suggested via text that they move in together. It was out of character, as they’d agreed on casual. After Dave declined, things took a terrifying turn.
Dave started to receive a mass number of texts from Cari with threats, and she began stalking him. Then, Cari started to threaten Liz, Dave’s ex-partner, and their children. But something wasn’t quite adding up. During this period, Cari’s mother received communications from her daughter that were short and abrupt. She claimed to have left town for a higher-paying job, even leaving her son behind. Time marched on, and Cari’s mother reported her missing. She hadn’t seen her daughter in months and was suspicious of the circumstances.
Lover, Stalker, Killer demonstrates the heinous stalking of Dave through various photos, video footage, and interviews with law enforcement and family members involved in the case. However, Dave narrates the story for the most part. As soon as the credits open, viewers are greeted by the real-life detectives who worked on the case. They briefly reflect on its complexities, along with the chief deputy of the department, who states, “Of all the cases I’ve ever prosecuted, this is the most bizarre and twisted.” It immediately grabs your attention and makes you want to keep on watching. The events that took place during the time reflected are so eerie, you’ll be in disbelief that the documentary is based on a true story and that something like this could happen to an individual in real life.
If you’re someone who watches a lot of crime documentaries, you’ll likely figure out the twists in Lover, Stalker, Killer early on, though having that knowledge doesn’t make the narrative and details surrounding the case any less gripping. Just when you think to yourself that things can’t get any crazier, they do. The detectives who worked on the case ran into some frustrating hurdles along the way, but it’s fascinating to see the time they dedicated to their work and the process that goes into solving crimes and finding the missing puzzle pieces.
One of the most unique aspects of the documentary is the decision to split the reenactments between hired actors and Dave himself. This approach won’t work for everyone, and it can distract from the details of the case while flipping between the two. I think Lover, Stalker, Killer may have benefited more from just focusing on Dave himself, as blending reenactments is slightly jarring. That said, all other elements that make up the case and the narrative are impressively edited, and Dave is a likable and direct individual that you immediately warm to. He recounts his story in the living room of an apartment we assume to be his and in an auto repair shop.
Lover, Stalker, Killer bears no bells and whistles, but it isn’t necessary to include irrelevant embellishments. Dave is a regular guy who just happened to connect with the wrong person at the wrong place and time. It led to an unimaginable outcome, but as a viewer, you can grasp just how much the tragic events have impacted his life and the guilt he carries. At the end of Lover, Stalker, Killer, there is resolve, though it doesn’t change the heartbreak of a life lost. The perpetrator may be behind bars, but the victim will never get their life back, which makes it a sad watch.
While Lover, Stalker, Killer may not make every viewer currently signed up to a dating app delete their account, it is an engrossing documentary that will certainly make you think twice about the risks of meeting people on the web. Although there are many genuine suitors in the online dating world and successful relationships have stemmed from apps, there are also risks. The documentary proves that the façade an individual uses behind the screen may be worlds apart from who they really are.
Lover, Stalker, Killer is now available to watch on Netflix.