Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is a true-crime Netflix original docuseries directed by Tiller Russell and featuring detectives Gil Carrillo and Frank Salerno along with other survivors of the vicious serial killer Richard Ramirez. The series consists of four episodes, each 48 minutes long.
Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is a documentary series that focuses on the Richard Ramirez serial killings that terrorised the residents of Los Angeles and San Francisco between 1984 and 1985. The series delves deep into the case from the point of view of the detectives who were assigned to it and the victims who thankfully came out of the ordeal alive.
The series, consisting of four episodes, goes through every little bit of the various facets of the case with a fine-tooth comb. Night Stalker tells this horrid tale with the help of extensive interviews and re-enactments (more on that later).
The interviews themselves are quite explorative. The detectives talk not only about the case but also about how it changed their own personal lives as well. The tremendous pressure to bring the culprit to justice went hand-in-hand with fearing for their own lives and the lives of their loved ones.
Horrifyingly enough, Ramirez’s killing spree did not have a set parameter. The man was a journalist’s dream – using an array of weapons and targeting children as well as adults. He not only killed, but he also burgled, raped, abducted and did all sorts of horrible things to his victims. Trying to find this man was a detective’s nightmare and thanks to some good samaritans the perpetrator was arrested. It is, thus, no surprise that the name “Night Stalker” was a brainchild of the journalists themselves.
However, my problem with Night Stalker is the sensationalist way the re-enactments are done. Most of them just look pretty tasteless, considering the gravity of the crime being discussed. There are moments and scenes that just look out of a melodrama and are being enacted or focused on just for sensationalising the entire thing. Considering the seriousness and the gravity of the crime, I don’t think more emphasis was needed.
However, if you’re squeamish when it comes to blood and gore, then the crime scene photos that are featured aplenty might just keep you up at night. It’s horrifying to look at and the details of the case are disturbing and mind-numbingly grotesque.
Additionally, Night Stalker is not about Ramirez. It is about catching the killer, as the title suggests. However, if you thought you’d get a somewhat in-depth look into the killer’s life, you’re up for disappointment. Having said that though, it’s still a pretty good watch.
The re-enactments, however, are pretty great visually. The cinematography and production quality are superb and I especially liked the theme song – it’s equal parts creepy and up-beat.
Night Stalker, unfortunately, does not focus on the problems that the case faced and the mistakes that the police and others associated with the case made. Ramirez evaded police custody for over a year, and not much is spoken about the fallacies of the police department. Although we do talk about some of them, it’s still not enough.
Summing up: Night Stalker
Night Stalker is similar to many a true-crime documentary series that we have seen Netflix make over the years. It’s not the worst thing we have seen on the platform, but it definitely isn’t the best. There could’ve been a lot of places where the documentary could’ve been much more interesting considering the subject matter. It drags in between a bit and takes away from the interest that you need to hold on to throughout.
However, with a subject as such, it doesn’t take long to regain your interest.
Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is streaming on Netflix.
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