Night Stalker: The Hunt For a Serial Killer

(I watched Night Stalker: The Hunt For a Serial Killer on Netflix some weeks back and totally forgot to mention it here, so a few brief words to remark on it before it disappears from my memory banks…)

I’m not what you’d call a real “true crime” kind of person. I don’t read it and although I’ve been subscribed to a podcast made by a fellow Aussie called Casefile, during the year of Covid (when I worked from home for a year solid and had next to no “car time” to listen to podcasts), I’ve fallen dozens of episodes behind and haven’t felt the need to catch up. So, suffice to say, although I don’t mind some true crime once in awhile, I don’t miss it if it’s not in my life, either. I’m pretty easygoing.

So it was a semi-unusual choice for me to a) notice, and b) quickly blast through this four-part documentary about the serial killer, Richard Ramirez. Something about it being set in LA in the 80s with loads and loads of historical videotape footage caught my attention (I love that sort of stuff), and the overall production on the first episode was good enough to pull me in and keep me there.

Something I noticed very early on was that the story concentrated on the cops involved. We have Gil Carrillo, a guy who started as in uniform, then moved to the ranks of the detectives. We have Frank Salerno, a detective who’s already a legend in the force, who taps Carrillo on the shoulder to be his partner. All of this was very interesting backstory and, as the killings start, I notice that the doco wasn’t mentioning Richard Ramirez by name at all. I wondered if it was to not glorify him too much. In the fourth episode he certainly arrives front-and-centre, almost like a rockstar. But for the first three episodes, he’s not even mentioned by name. It may be to give the audience the feeling that we’re as in the dark about the murders as the cops during the investigation. Or it could even be a bit of both.

I mentioned the production earlier, and it’s definitely slick. The modern day interviews with Carrillo and Salerno have them sitting – separately – in a darkened bar. Very atmospheric. Almost like they’re telling you the story over a beer. The contemporary video footage I mentioned earlier is really fascinating to watch, especially the newscasts. This is very much a modern doco that’s never boring.

For me to blast through the episodes as fast as I did when I’m not a true crime buff (but also not averse to it either I must stress), suggests that anyone who is into the genre more than myself would eat this up in seconds. And even someone looking for something different one evening, and not squeamish about how horrible some people can be to their fellow human beings, may find this of interest.

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