There’s a trend emerging Hollywood, in which real life teen heartthrobs play serial killers on screen. In My Friend Dahmer, Disney star Ross Lynch plays the titular cannibal and has been earning unlikely raves for his performance. Meanwhile, Zac Efron—fresh off his chest-baring duties in Baywatch—will play real life American psycho Ted Bundy in the upcoming film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.
So what gives? What ever happened to the grand tradition of actors like Kevin Spacey and Sir Anthony Hopkins in roles that make our blood curdle? If you too find yourself missing the golden years of serial killers on screen, feast your eyes on the first trailer for Manhunt: Unabomber. The eight-episode Discovery Channel drama stars Paul Bettany as Ted Kaczynski, the Harvard professor-turned-terrorist, who became known as the Unabomber and wreaked havoc on the American people over the span of a ruthless 17-year bombing campaign.
Bettany—who has plenty of experience playing murderous lunatics—looks absolutely chilling as the notorious recluse, whose now infamous manifesto has become the stuff of cult legend after it was published in 1995. Manhunt will focus on the FBI’s large-scale efforts to apprehend Kaczynski, which were eventually successful thanks to the help of his brother David (Mark Duplass) and the criminal profiler James Fitzegerald (Sam Worthington).
“The show has no sympathy for Ted Kaczynski, but it does have empathy for him,” Bettany told Entertainment Weekly last month. “That’s important because otherwise, the conversation stops at ‘monster.’”
Manhunt hopes to capitalize on the success of FX’s stunning first season of American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, which looks to have ushered in the era of true crime dramas on television. The second season of ACS, which centers on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, is expected to premiere some time next year. We’ll see if Manhunt cant steal its, er, thunder when it debuts August 1 on Discovery. Watch the trailer below.