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Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story
Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story

Hulu debuted the official trailer for Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story, the documentary series looking at the evolution of true-crime storytelling, told through the lens of the 1972 kidnapping of Steven Stayner.

Directed by Jessica Dimmock, Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story premieres on Hulu on April 21, 2022.

This is the story of how a story gets told, and how the media’s magnifying glass impacts the characters caught in the narrative. Siblings Ashley and Steven Stayner Jr. never knew their famous father Steven, the child victim of a shocking California kidnapping, who tragically died in an accident when they were young. In 1972, seven-year-old Steven went to school – and never came home. His mother Kay struggles to keep the media interested in the case, and to hold her family together. Then, after seven years, a miracle: Steven returns. The media can’t get enough of the story and frantically descend on the Stayner home – but this isn’t the Hollywood ending it appears to be.

Now fourteen years old, Steven struggles to adapt, and his family grapples with life under the media microscope. Steven’s older brother Cary has mixed emotions: happy to have his brother back, but jealous of how the media has turned Steven into a hero. When Steven’s kidnapper goes on trial, painful truths are made public, and the media coverage takes a dark turn, sending Steven on a downward spiral. Just as he starts to pull his life together – with marriage, kids, and a hit TV movie about his story – the Stayners endure another tragedy. And soon, they’ll be famous all over again, for a very different reason.

Fast forward to 1999, when four women are brutally murdered in nearby Yosemite. Ashley Stayner was fourteen years old at the time, and recalls being riveted by the months-long investigation – until she learns that someone close to home has confessed to the crimes. The story thrusts the Stayners back into the spotlight, forcing us to ask how our appetite for these stories drives a demand the media is eager to satisfy.

Watch the trailer for Captive Audience

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