While scrolling through my Netflix suggestions, I stumbled across Night Stalker: The Hunt For a Serial Killer. I love a good crime documentary, even though I often regret watching them at night. This documentary scared the living daylight out of me. I couldn’t believe the story and as the days passed by, I couldn’t get the horrendous picture of Richard Ramirez at his trial, holding up his hand-embellished with a Satanic sign out of my head.
I couldn’t get the horrendous picture of Richard Ramirez at his trial, holding up his hand-embellished with a Satanic sign out of my head.”
Directed by Tiller Russel (Operation Odessa, The Seven Fire); Night Stalker: The Hunt For A Serial Killer studies the case of Richard Ramirez, an El Paso native who terrorized over 25 victims in LA. He was sentenced to 19 death sentences and many said he looked like the devil incarnate.
So you are probably thinking to yourself, Isabella, why would I watch a show about a serial killer that is going to scare the living daylights out of me? Trust me. That was my first thought when I saw the suggestion at 10:20 pm on a Friday night in the dark. But this show will stick with you.
The documentary is narrated by Gil Carrillo and Frank Salermo, who were the leading detectives on the case. Russell introduces each interviewee with a heartfelt story to build sympathy with the audience. For example, Carillo shares a story about his journey in the army to the police force and the strained relationship with his dad. It also features interviews from family members of victims, news reporters, and police officers who were involved. In true-crime documentary fashion, the buildup of the case begins with the stories of the victims. Carillo and Salermo are both convincing and detailed with the victim cases. Once a family is involved in any story, it becomes an automatic tear-jerker for me.
Although the story isn’t based around Ramirez’s life and motives for these killings, the police detailings are just as compelling. In fact, the clues that led up to discover who the killer was are really unique. For example, when Richard attempted to rob a house he left a perfect print of his shoe in the flower bed. From the shoe print, police were able to find the shoe size and searched to uncover what brand the shoe was. They discovered the shoe was an Avia model in black (from witnesses). Only one Avia shoe in black came to Los Angeles!
The glamourization of serial killers is something to be looked at too. Ramirez had many admirers and groupies in jail. Many sent him explicit photos and vows of love. Ugh. Gross. I know, why are people attracted to a person who is the embodiment of evil? I have never understood why someone would think that crimes of that level are attractive, but that is indeed a problem in popular culture. Just imagine how horrible the victims feel seeing someone justify their attacker’s actions.
The documentary is suspenseful and dramatic when it comes to showing the brutality of these murders. Those who don’t like seeing crime scenes played out or shown in old photos should probably look away. Personally, I felt a bit sick looking at one of the cases; which was a six-year-old girl who was taken from her bed and kidnapped. The woman was interviewed and her story was extremely creepy. Her narration plus the panned shots of creaky hands opening up someone’s window was a good idea to add suspense. Ramirez’s voice is also inserted into the docuseries as a way to get an inside look in the mind of a serial killer.
If you are looking for a documentary that psychoanalyzes Richard Ramirez’s childhood and delves deeper into the case itself and the actual court hearings; this documentary would not fulfill any of that to a tee. Night Stalker is more about the police investigation and the victim’s stories than the actual killer himself. I would rate this docuseries an 8/10. Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is an interesting time filler to add to your list!
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