Netflix’s latest docuseries- Night Stalker: The Hunt For A Serial Killer, is about an infamous American bogeyman. It is a true story of how strangely a community comes together to stop a dangerous predator in its midst. But unlike 2019’s “Conversation with a killer”, the focus is however here on Ramirez himself. The name is not even mentioned till the end of the third episode.
Only a brief mention is made about the childhood forces which had helped to shape him as a monster. The presence of the character is unseen but is chillingly present with people describing him as a scarecrow of a man who has rotten teeth, a bad smell, and horrifying eyes in an AC/DC hat. He always lurks in the shadows.
In one of the scenes, on August 31, 1985, Richard Ramirez, who is the deprived rapist and murderer gets off a Greyhound bus in East Los Angeles. He is been dubbed as the ‘The Night Stalker’ by the Los Angeles newspapers. He slips off through a black door to escape the LAPD officers, who were waiting for him.
Every newspaper had his face plastered on them and everyone looked at him. He ran across four lanes amidst the highway traffic and stole one car after the other. He was rebuffed by a man Manuel de la Torre, who swung a metal bar at the killer. Soon, the crowd had gathered to hit him. A sheriff’s vehicle arrived and thus he was saved from getting killed by the mob.
The main characters in the show are Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department detectives Frank Salerno and Gil Carrillo, who are the lead investigators who are hunting the murderer. Salerno, who is the toughened experienced person, very famous for his work on an earlier serial killer case, is serving as a grizzled counterpart to the ambitious family man, Carrillo.
It is Carrillo who is the emotional linchpin in the series, all thanks to his wife, Pearl. She would add her memory of overwhelming fear which she faced when a murder took place just five minutes away from her place and she had to hide with her kids in an undisclosed location, till the nightmarish killing spree got over.
The docuseries also highlights the professional relationships, of that of the TV news reporter, who speaks admiringly about the female colleague who had dutifully reported all the disturbing details of the case, even though speaking about it, gave her nightmares.
But it cannot be considered as a wholesome tale in any way. The main culprit targeted people of all ages and sex and abused them indiscriminately and with brutality. Also, he spent most of his time deconstructing the crime, which had gripped the city throughout the summer.
The first and fourth episode consists of various testimonies, which may be extremely triggering to all the sexual assault survivors. The viewers’ memory would be seared for long with the 3D models used to pair with the actual crime-scene photographs, which flash long enough on the screen.
The docuseries is relatively uninterested in the cultural underpinnings of Ramirez’s case, which chooses to take a procedural approach. There are many murders shown one after the other in the first three episodes. So there is a sigh of relief felt when finally the murderer gets caught in the fourth episode.
But the main takeaway of the fable is how the love of a family saved a detective from being overwhelmed by the darkness which has ripped so many other families apart.