By: Kayla Caldwell
Hulu's DEAD ASLEEP, the latest true crime documentary from Abducted in Plain Sight director Skye Borgman, follows the case of Randy Herman Jr., a man convicted of murder - though he says the crime was committed while he was sleepwalking. There aren’t very many sleepwalking cases, though they are not unheard of. I’ll never forget the story of Kenneth James Parks, who attacked his in-laws, murdering his mother-in-law with a tire iron. He was acquitted, though that certainly isn’t always the case.
Ahead of the debut of DEAD ASLEEP (December 16, 2021), we were lucky enough to chat with Borgman, herself. Read on below for more thoughts on the Herman Jr. case, as well as discussions on why women love true crime, and what Borgman hopes viewers take from the film.
CREEPY KINGDOM: I’m a big true crime fan. You also made the popular Abducted in Plain Sight documentary, so I was wondering, have you always been into true crime?
SKYE BORGMAN: Yeah, it's funny, because I don't know if I've always necessarily been into true crime, but I've always been fascinated by the frailty of the human condition. I'm just curious as to why people do what they do - whether it be from little things, like why they pick whatever dog they pick out or whatever clothes they pick out to, why or how somebody could go and murder somebody else. So I think that's really what, what drives me more… The crime element is just the human condition.
CREEPY KINGDOM: Is there a case you can remember that piqued your interest into that side of the human condition?
SKYE BORGMAN: You know, I think a big one for me when I started looking at so many different perspectives, was Amanda Knox. I believed the headlines. I guess I fell into this place of like going, she killed, she killed, you know, Foxy Knoxy… like I was consumed by the media of it. Then when I started looking into it more, I was like, wait a minute. There's something really wrong about this. The more I looked at it, and this is from afar - I never did a project on Amanda - I was really fascinated by how I experienced her story. And even even saying that, you know, how I experienced her story really isn't her story. It's completely separate from her, but she was embroiled in all of this.
So the crime itself was fascinating to me, the way it was dealt with was fascinating to me, and the way the media put it out there was fascinating to me. Then what's been infinitely fascinating from that point on is how Amanda has sort of come out and talked so openly about it. So I think that, I don't know if it was necessarily the first one, but it was a critical one for me, because it taught me that you have to believe everyone, and believe no one, you know? Everyone has a perspective, and you always and constantly have to question everything you hear.
CREEPY KINGDOM: It’s also interesting that so many women love true crime, even though more often than not, we’re the victims of it. I wanted to get your opinions on that, especially as a female director of true crime documentaries. I know, for me, I feel like it almost helps my anxiety, the more information I have - if that makes sense?
SKYE BORGMAN: I think that's exactly how I feel - that we as women sort of are drawn to it, because we just think about it so much more. It's constantly on our minds, you know, as soon as we walk out the front door or even while we're inside the door, how do we protect ourselves? It's almost subconscious in a way, really. I was walking with my husband the other day, and, a car slowed down, and immediately, I was sort of suspicious. It drove by, and I was like, that was weird. And he was like, what? And [he] didn’t, you know, didn't even register it. I feel like it's just, you know, I don't know if it's part of our nature or just part of how we experience the world around us.
I think it's more that than anything else, that we are constantly taught and conditioned to be on the lookout, and to protect ourselves. And that's why I do feel like women love true crime so much, because it just gives us more tools to sort of arm ourselves with, and more information, and go, oh, this can happen. This is something I've never thought about before. In the case of Randy Herman, I don't know that we could ever protect ourselves from something like that. That's also what's so fascinating to me about this case is, if he was indeed sleepwalking, which I still don't know if he was or not. I hope the documentary sort of gives a pretty balanced view of crimes committed while allegedly sleepwalking. How do we ever protect ourselves from that? We can't. That's one place where no amount of information that we get could protect us from somebody that we live with that we know and trust.
CREEPY KINGDOM: It's such a scary topic, because we really don't know if he is being sincere or if he really was acting out of jealousy or vengeance. Even when you have all the information, it's still kind of just up in the air.
SKYE BORGMAN: Well, because you're never going to have all the information. You're never going to know if he was actually sleepwalking or not because there were two people in the house. One of them is dead, and the other one says he can't remember anything. So is he lying or was he sleepwalking? I mean, to me there's three possibilities. It's he was lying, he was sleepwalking, or he was awake, and blocked it out, because it was such a traumatic experience. But we're never going to know if he was really sleepwalking or not.
CREEPY KINGDOM: What do you hope people take away from Dead Asleep?
SKYE BORGMAN: I think it really is self care. It sounds kind of kumbaya, but to really look at our surroundings, you know, how much time we are self-medicating, how much time we're spending on computers and iPhones - and, you know, really start thinking about how these different things affect our sleep. Our sleep gives us life. It's our moment to be dormant, and to be at peace, and to be quiet. And we just don't have those opportunities. I feel like those opportunities are fleeting, and we're really kind of desperate to try to find those moments again. So to kind of just look at ourselves, and look at the possibilities, and if you are a sleepwalker, you know, to kind of look at what that means. I mean, I don't think there are that many violent sleepwalkers. But it certainly can happen. Can we sort of take care of ourselves better when we're awake, so that when we're asleep, we're more efficient to rejuvenating?
CREEPY KINGDOM: That's such a good point. That makes me think of A Nightmare on Elm Street, and one of the reasons it's so scary is because he gets them in their dreams, and you can't just never sleep. And we watch that and we feel why that's scary, but then we'll go, you know, work all night or stay up all night long to do a paper - and we'll do it to ourselves, and just kind of completely separate the two, as if it won't affect us.
SKYE BORGMAN: Yeah. I think… I'm going to get this science completely wrong. You can die faster without sleeping than you will without water. I mean, it's something crazy. Like it's really what keeps us alive.
CREEPY KINGDOM: The cases that I've seen in your previous work, they're all fascinating. What really pulls you to taking these cases and, fleshing them out into documentaries?
SKYE BORGMAN: I'm drawn to the ones I just don't understand. You know, that have some element that I just can't quite comprehend, and that really is what's so interesting and fascinating to me, is to be able to come into a project, and learn more about it, and the ability to have my mind changed or to have my approach altered — or just to be able to look at the world in a more complete way. So all of the documentaries that I'm choosing have an element to them that is just unbelievable. It's always my desire and my quest to question, and to figure what else is there. Usually when it's something that's truly unbelievable, there’s something that sort of runs parallel to it that can sort of explain it, or at least give you greater insight into it - and finding those parallels is really, really interesting.
CREEPY KINGDOM: It's nice to hear that you're going into it with such an open mind, and I like that you said you hoped the documentary was balanced, because sometimes it can be hard watching these when they can be so skewed.
SKYE BORGMAN: Thanks. I mean, it's really what I try to do. I try to put stories out there that, you know, once they're over, the conversation continues, and you can turn to your spouse, your dog, and continue that conversation. And that it makes us kind of think of things in a slightly different way.
DEAD ASLEEP is streaming on Hulu now.