‘Night Stalker: The Hunt For A Killer’ Is Trash TV At Its Finest

Courtesy of Netflix

The Night Stalker murders are one of the most notorious crime sprees in history. From June 1984 until his capture in August 1985, Richard Ramirez terrorized the Greater Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay areas with brutal home invasions that eventually numbered eighteen.

Ramirez was convicted in 1989 of thirteen counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder, eleven counts of sexual assault, and fourteen counts of burglary. He received nineteen death sentences and later died while awaiting execution.

In Netflix’s limited docu-series Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer, we get an in-depth look at the horrifying events spread out over four episodes. Prominently featured throughout are interviews with the police officers who lead the search for the killer — particularly Los Angeles County Sheriff’s detectives Gil Carrillo and Frank Salerno — and victim’s family members.

On one hand, Night Stalker is well-made and absolutely chills to the bone. The depths to which evil can sink were on full display here. The production team did a commendable job with the story structure and tracking down all the file footage. I loved how they made it more about the victims and not about Ramirez.

However, there were some areas where I feel they went over the line. Including slo-mo blood spatter shots and unblurred crime scene photos of the victims is unnecessary and feels disrespectful to the victims. For some reason, they also didn’t include a disclaimer beforehand about the graphic nature of the scenes — which I feel would have been appropriate.

Also, the constant cliffhangers and accompanying ‘80s synth music seemed a little inappropriate considering we are talking about a string of brutal attacks. Like, I understand they wanted to build suspense but it made the show feel more like a tabloid spectacle instead of a serious look at what was an emotionally agonizing period for many Californians. The way in which law enforcement was portrayed also felt rather sensationalistic and glorified their actions. 

There was one pre-cliffhanger scene in particular that really drove this issue home. San Francisco detective Frank Falzon gleefully recalled how he tracked down a friend of the killer who wouldn’t give up his full name. He dragged the friend into a police car, threatened him, and punched him in the face. After additional threats, Falzon lunged toward the friend, who supposedly “threw his hands up in a cross” and continuously repeated the name: “Richard Ramirez, Richard Ramirez.” As Falzon began to reach the climax of the story, the music got louder and then immediately thereafter cut to the credits. Disturbing to say the least.

I give Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer three out of five stars.

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